By Sam Beaudoin
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 74-72 loss at the hands of the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks Saturday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The Bold nearly overcame their first-half woes and completed the comeback in the final seconds but came up just short at the buzzer, giving the Ridgebacks a gritty and hard-fought win.
“I don’t think we lost the game in the final possession, I think we lost the game in the first half,” said Bold head coach David DeAveiro.
The Bold entered the contest fresh off a win over the McMaster Marauders which pushed their record on the season to 5-2, while the Ridgebacks entered with a 4-2 record.
The home side was at a disadvantage from the get-go, with fourth-year guard David Walker missing from the team for the third consecutive game.
When asked for an update on Walker, DeAveiro had no comment to provide.
The Bold seemed unaffected by Walker’s absence in the early going of the first quarter, getting out to an early 10-3 lead, fuelled by a hot start from third-year forward Aaron Rhooms who put up nine of his team’s 23 points in the frame.
Despite the hot start from Rhooms, TMU quickly allowed the Ridgebacks to crawl back into the game.
The Bold turned the ball over five times, with a handful of those coming in the way of offensive fouls, much to the disagreement of the home side’s bench.
“The referees were terrible…you don’t really know what they’re calling sometimes,” said third-year guard Marsei Caston. “They just simply weren’t good refs.”
The Ridgebacks utilized the whistles and the three-ball to take the lead late in the first. Ontario Tech shot an outstanding 71.4 per cent from beyond the arc in the quarter, fuelling them to a 25-23 lead after one.
It was more of the same from the Bold in the second quarter, with both sides playing sloppy basketball. Each team turned the ball over eight times and struggled to find a rhythm in their half-court offence.
First-year guard Gabriel Gutsmore was one of few positives for the Bold in the quarter, as he’s been recently for the home side, coming up with four of his match-high five steals in the frame.
“He’s been really good for us…he was supposed to be a red-shirt and now he’s logging heavy minutes,” said DeAverio. “We’re excited about Gabe and about having him in our program.”
Both sides traded blows in the final moments of the half, which included a vicious reverse dunk from Caston which energized the MAC. Yet, the Ridgebacks headed into the break with a 40-38 advantage.
The Bold’s offensive foul woes continued out of the gates in the third, taking three consecutive offensive fouls, allowing the Ridgebacks to build on their lead.
Ontario Tech third-year forward Ayub Nurhussien led the way in the quarter with eight of his 18 points in the match, while for the Bold, Caston kept the home side within striking distance.
The Windsor, Ont. product put up nine points in the frame and reduced the Ridgebacks’ lead to 61-54, heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
“I was just playing my game, playing with freedom and doing everything that I’ve been doing that got me here,” said Caston.
TMU came into the fourth quarter much more locked in on the defensive end of the court, keeping Ontario Tech off the scoreboard for nearly three minutes.
Late in the quarter, much to the satisfaction of the home spectators, the Bold climbed all the way back to take their first lead of the game since early in the first quarter on a three-ball from first-year guard Michael Kayembe.
With 31 seconds left in the quarter, Ridgebacks third-year guard Keon Baker hit a tough three to draw the game even at 72, resulting in DeAveiro calling a timeout.
Coming out of the huddle, Gutsmore drove to the basket and was met at the rim by a defender, which quickly sent the Ridgebacks on a fastbreak the other way with time expiring.
Baker drove, put it up and finished through contact to give Ontario Tech the two-point advantage. The layup ultimately stood as the final points of the afternoon as third-year forward Simon Chamberlain couldn’t drain the game-winning triple off a tough look.
“It was crazy…both teams going up and down the floor trading fouls and threes,” said fifth-year guard Cameron Ramage on the game’s final moments. “Everything went super quick out of the timeout, wild finish.”
UP NEXT: The Bold will look to get back into the win column on Nov. 29 when they host the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks at the MAC at 8 p.m.