HALIFAX, N.S. (U SPORTS) – After seven years, U SPORTS will crown a new national champion.
In a grudge match of the OUA finals, the Ryerson Rams finally took down the perennial powerhouse Carleton Ravens in an 84-76 thriller.
“I’m super proud of these guys and to beat a historic program – not only in Canada but throughout the world – is pretty special,” said Ryerson head coach Roy Rana. “I think it says a lot about the quality of the game here in Canada and at the U SPORTS level.”
Manny Diressa was a scoring machine and recorded a game-high 28 points on 8-of-13 shooting and added six assists for the Rams. Point guard Myles Charvis chipped in with 15, while teammates Jean-Victor Mukama and Adam Voll had 10 each.
Even though Carleton’s championship streak came to an end, head coach Dave Smart had high praise for his young squad.
“I’m incredibly proud of my team, we’re real young,” he said. “We started a ton of young guys. We were tight Thursday night and we were tight tonight, but we played hard both nights. Manny was just too good to allow us to win on effort.”
While the win was unquestionably big for Ryerson’s program, there’s still some unfinished business to take care of – capturing their first national championship. But first they’ll have to take down the Calgary Dinos in Sunday’s championship match.
“We’re not here to celebrate…but if we win tomorrow we’ll celebrate,” said Rana. “We’re here just like every other team to try and win a championship and while Carleton is a power, they’re another team we have to get through to get to our goal. I’m just thankful for the opportunity that we’ll have one more chance.”
The two teams traded baskets early before Ryerson’s Diressa and Filip Vujadinovic drained back-to-back threes to storm ahead 14-6. Diressa led all first-quarter scorers with nine, as the Rams took an 18-11 advantage into the second. Their defence also stifled the 13-time national champions and held them to just 31.3 per cent shooting from the field.
But Carleton wasn’t going away that easily and showcased their championship grit to the Halifax crowd. In just three minutes and 30 seconds, the Ravens erased a seven-point deficit and turned it into a 26-20 advantage behind a powerful 15-2 run. Ryerson countered with a 16-10 run of their own, capped off by a Roshane Roberts buzzer-beating triple that knotted the game at 36 apiece.
Carelton got a much-needed lift from their bench in the second quarter where they scored 15 of their 25 points. Reserve Stanley Mayambo matched teammate Yasiin Joseph with nine at the break, while Diressa led all scorers with 17 for the opposing Rams.
“We know going in, every game is going to be a battle,” said Charvis. “It’s going to be a hard-fought game, there’s going to be punches thrown on both sides and you just have to continue to withstand those punches and make your own run.”
Vujadinovic continued to shoot the ball with confidence and drilled consecutive triples to help his Rams pull ahead 48-42 midway through the third. While Ryerson’s lead wavered at times in the quarter, they always found a way to counter the Ravens’ attack and carried a 63-56 lead into the fourth.
With his team up by just three at 65-62 with 6:42 remaining, Diressa removed himself from the game after getting hit in the left shoulder. It was at that moment that the Ravens had their best chance to take control, but his teammates not only held on to the lead in his absence, they extended it 71-65. The all-star made his return late and helped close out the historic moment, as the Rams came away with the 84-76 win.
“I think it says a lot about the resilience of this group that he stepped off the floor with an injury and our mental focus didn’t change,” said Rana.
The championship final is scheduled for Sunday at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT and will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet NOW.
Players of the Game
Ryerson: Manny Diressa
Carleton: Yasiin Joseph