KINGSTON, Ont. (March 2, 2016)- Ryall Stroud tallied a game-high 20 points, and the Queen's Gaels men's basketball team earned its first playoff win in six years on Wednesday evening at the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC), defeating the Toronto Varsity Blues 87-70 in the first round of the OUA playoffs.
Stroud was 7-of-13 from the field, and added 14 points to earn a double-double, while Tanner Graham added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Gaels, who used an explosive middle half of the contest where the dropped 50 points total in the second and third quarters to build up an insurmountable lead by fourth. Devin Johnson led the Blues with 20 points and 11 rebounds in a losing cause.
With the victory, Queen's moves on to face the CIS No. 2 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees on Saturday in the conference quarter-finals, with a ticket to the OUA Wilson Cup Final Four on the line.
A corner three from Sammy Ayisi (Toronto) four minutes into the contest capped off a 9-4 run to start the game for the Gaels. Andrew Mavety (North Vancouver, B.C.) and Mike Shoveller (Arnprior, Ont.) also picked up jumpers from beyond the arc, while Miroslav Jaksic countered with three field-goals of his own, helping the Blues stay within striking distance throughout the first quarter. The Gaels took a 17-15 lead into the second.
Toronto took the lead just over two minutes into the next period, and Johnson pushed the advantage up to five with a three-pointer off a Blues inbounds. A dunk by Graham and lay-up by Stroud (Toronto) brought the teams even for the third time in the second quarter. Graham pushed the hosts back in front, but that was short-lived as Toronto tied the game on their next possession.
Graham continued to heat up as the half winded down, nailing consecutive deep three's. Mark Paclibar got in the act, stepping around the screen and sinking another basket from beyond the arc, which stretched the Gael advantage up to seven with just under two minutes left in the second quarter. The Minesing, Ont. native mimicked his sophomore comrade, hitting his second-straight long-ranger off a missed free-throw, pushing the Gaels lead up to 10. The hosts would maintain that spread at the half, leading by a score of 38-28.
Graham and Stroud each tallied a half-high of 10 points, while Daniel Johansson recorded nine for the Blues.
Ayisi began the second-half with three-pointer, and Graham followed that with four more points, the last two of which came off a monster dunk off a baseline drive. The Gaels started pouring in the offence in the early part of the third, and after a 9-2 run Toronto coach John Campbell called for timeout with his team down by 18 at the 6:32 mark.
The potent perimeter shooting continued for the hosts, as Paclibar notched his third three, and Stroud pushed the lead north of 20 soon after at the midway mark of the period. Toronto put together a small run, courtesy of seven-straight points by Jaksic, to take a chunk out of the substantial Gael lead.
Queen's responded with a 10-0 run that included back-to-back lay-ups in transition from Mavety, and took a commanding 67-43 advantage into the final quarter. The Gaels shot a formidable 68.8% (11-16) in the third.
The Blues put together an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead down to 16 before a tough lay-up by Ayisi ended their streak. Toronto persevered throughout the final 10 minutes, using multiple trips to the foul line to cut the deficit down to as much as 15.
Toronto had dug itself too deep a hole to climb out of, however, and the Gaels poured in 20 points in the fourth to preserve their first playoff victory since they last hosted a home post-season game in 2010.
"In the middle portion of the game, it was a combination of good defence and good offence," said Head Coach Stephan Barrie. "In those middle two quarters, we were having strong offensive possessions, easy scores, and solid defence. So you take control of the game that way. In the middle part when we took over, our game was simple. Easy passing, moving the ball and it was great, but we have to be a little more consistent throughout the game. Our defense in finishing the game I wasn't happy with at all. We lost our focus in the last part, and obviously the message to the guys is if you do that on Saturday for four minutes, you're not in the game. We need 40 minutes instead of 32."
On the atmosphere
"It was great, and our hope is that we can build off this momentum and host playoff games every year, and build our crowds in the regular season. The crowd was a major impact tonight, gave us great energy, they were tremendous and we're really appreciative. Our guys want to be a great team that draws great crowds and plays in great atmospheres, that's what they play for. That's the most exciting thing for them so for them to get this at home this year is great. They deserve it, but we're really appreciative of the crowd and the people who came out, they did a great job supporting us."
BY THE NUMBERS
44.0%- The Gaels shot an impressive 44.0% (11-25) from beyond the arc in the victory
14- Stroud's 14 rebounds was a season-high
1-The rebounding difference. Toronto pulled down 44 boards compared to 43 from Queen's
The Gaels will travel to the nation's capital on Saturday afternoon to take on the CIS No. 2 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m.
Source: Queen's Gaels