OTTAWA, Ont. - In a rematch of last year's OUA championship game, the Ryerson Rams once again defeated the Carleton Ravens, 86-79, to win their second straight Wilson Cup title.
Adika Peter-McNeilly had a tremendous 29-point and 12-rebound performance against the top defence in the nation to lead his team to the gold medal. After losing to the Rams 73-68 in last year's finals, 2017 OUA MVP Connor led the Ravens with 25-points and 7 triples, but ultimately fell short to the visiting Ryerson squad.
With the OUA title under their belt, the Rams will now look to Halifax for the U SPORTS national championship tournament, starting Thursday, March 9.
The Rams started the game on fire from deep, opening the scoring with a triple by Peter-McNeilly on their first possession of the game. Eddie Ekiyor responded on the other end with a thunderous throwdown for the Ravens' first points of the game, but the Rams proceeded to hit five threes in the opening five minutes of the game, shooting 5-for-8 from deep to start. The Ravens closed the gap by the end of the first, trailing by just one with 36 seconds left in the opening quarter after a Mitch Wood jumper, but Filip Vujadinovic hit his team's seventh triple as the buzzer expired, giving the Rams a 21-17 lead at the end of one.
Peter-McNeilly scored the first points of the second quarter as well, but the Ravens immediately went on a 7-0 run to capture their first lead of the game, off a Ryan Ejim post move. Juwon Grannum of the Rams retook the lead for his team with a pullup jumper, but Ekiyor's second dunk of the game, halfway through the second quarter, tied it up at 26 apiece. The game got more physical as the teams traded the lead back and forth to close out the second, with neither team able to pull ahead by more than a few points. Peter-McNeilly drew a foul with 4.2 seconds left in the first half, sunk the two free throws, and had his team up 38-34 at the break.
Peter-McNeilly scored 18 points for the Rams by the break, accounting for three of his team's nine first-half triples. Ekiyor led the Ravens with 10 points and nine rebounds at the half, while Connor Wood had 8 points off two triples. The Ravens outrebounded the Rams 24-14 in the opening half, but the Rams' terrific defence (5 steals and 4 blocks in the half) and their sweet shooting gave them the advantage to start.
The Ravens came out hard in the third, scoring six straight to start the quarter and take the lead. Ammanuel Diressa of the Rams responded with nine straight points for his team, putting the Rams back up by three. Connor Wood hit his third triple of the game at the perfect time, tying up the game at 47 with 4:45 to go. The Ravens and Rams traded leads a few more times throughout the third, but the Ravens went on a 10-2 run to close out the quarter, and they had a 58-54 lead going into the final period.
"I told them to just keep going, stick to the gameplan," said Rams head coach Roy Rana. "It's more about that, more about execution and motivation."
The Ravens and Rams traded triples to begin the fourth, going back to back with neither team able to gain the upper hand. Ryerson finally broke the stalemate by going on a 11-1 run, capped off by a pair of Peter-McNeilly free-throws to put the Rams up 70-66. Connor Wood hit his sixth triple of the game to cut the lead to one, but Ryerson went on another run, 7-0 this time, to regain control.
The Ravens kept coming, led by Ekiyor who scored 5 straight to keep his team in the game, but a Diressa triple with 1:08 left on the clock put the Rams up by 8, effectively crushing the Ravens' chances. Connor Wood hit another triple with 23 seconds left to cut the lead to five, but the Rams held on until the final buzzer, and walked away with their second straight Wilson Cup.
We let them get too many one-on-one looks (at the end)," said Connor Wood, when asked what went wrong for the Ravens near the end. "We let them get to the rim too many times without helping on defence, and had some turnovers, mostly by myself. We gotta make sure we hold it together for all 40 minutes."
Ammanuel Diressa ended with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for the RRams. The duo of Peter-McNeilly and Diressa closed out the game in spectacular fashion for Ryerson, combining for 24 of the Rams' 32 fourth quarter points.
"It's great because it shows us that we can play in crunch time and that we don't have to get down on each other," said Diressa. "Just move on to the next play, we know when we get into these situations later on in the season, or next year, we can be confident that we can make plays and that guys won't be rattled."
The Rams also stepped it up defensively against the Ravens, collecting 12 steals and 11 blocks throughout the game. Combined with their 14 made triples on the night, the Rams outplayed the Ravens on both ends of the court to secure their second straight OUA championship.
"Every game is different," said coach Rama. "It comes down to possessions when you play good teams, and we made big shots down the stretch."
Ekiyor ended the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds on 9-for-13 shooting from the field, including many big dunks on the night, but was ultimately unable to close out the game for the Ravens. Kaza Kajami-Keane finished with 11 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds in the loss, and Ryan Ejim chipped in 10 points and 7 boards. Much like the Gee-Gees in their bronze medal game against Brock, the Ravens shot poorly from the charity stripe (8-for-16, 50%), the difference maker in such a close contest.
Although the Ravens walked away on Saturday with the tough loss, they will continue their season, alongside the Rams, in Halifax next week for the U SPORTS national championship tournament.
"They won nationals last year so I know they won't be worried about this game too much," said Diressa of the Ravens. "I know they're gonna move on from this, watch film, and take away from this game."
Connor Wood had a simple answer on what would motivate him looking forward to nationals: "This game."
The national championship tournament will tip-off on Thursday, March 9th in Halifax, NS.