HALIFAX, N.S. — For the 14th time in school history, the Carleton Ravens reign supreme in U Sports men’s basketball.
Last season, the Ravens saw their seven-year title run come to an end with a loss in the semi-finals to the Ryerson Rams. 84-76. The Ravens bounced back to pick up a five-point win over the McGill Redmen in the Bronze Medal game, 76-71. While it was still a podium finish, the Ravens came into 2018-19 looking to get back into the winner’s circle.
After rolling through the regular season and playoffs with only one loss to their name, the Ravens found themselves back in the national championship against a team who was looking to continue their winning ways and start their own lengthy title run.
The Calgary Dinos picked up their first-ever men’s basketball national championship last season with a 79-77 win over Ryerson. With a target on their backs this season as the defending champs, the Dinos didn’t miss a beat, posting a perfect regular season record. In the post-season, Calgary went without a loss, a streak that led them back to the title game for a date against the Ravens.
Canada’s top two teams squared off in what was a highly anticipated match-up. The final score wasn’t as close as many expected, however. Carleton took an early 13-2 lead in the first quarter to put the Dinos behind the eight-ball from the start and they never looked back.
When the final buzzer sounded, Carleton had secured its 14th national title with an 83-49 win over Calgary.
The first quarter featured a pair of lengthy runs, one each from both sides. Carleton raced out of the gates to the tune of a 17-3 run to put all of the momentum at their backs. A pair of free throws from Munis Tutu (Windsor, Ont.) helped push the Ravens’ lead to 14 points with just over three minutes to play in the quarter.
Three pointers from both Lucas Mannes (Chilliwack, B.C.) and David Kapinga (Calgary, Alta.) helped the Dinos close the quarter on a 10-3 run of their own to cut the deficit in half before the break. Calgary got to within seven points of the Ravens heading into the second quarter, 20-13.
In the second quarter, the Ravens put separation between themselves and the Dinos to set the stage for the second half. Carleton outscored the defending champions by a 24-10 margin to take a 44-23 lead into the locker room. Back to back three pointers from Isiah Osborne (Windsor, Ont.) to open the quarter helped the Ravens continue their momentum from the opening frame.
On both ends of the floor, Carleton flexed their muscle and showed why they were the top-ranked team heading into the Final 8 tournament. Tutu posted 16 points, four rebounds, and four steals in the first half to pace the attack for the Ravens.
Over the final 20 minutes, the Ravens built on their lead and never let the Dinos to get a sniff of the lead. Carleton saw their lead grow to 64-36 after three-quarters, setting the tone for a celebration at the end of the fourth frame. The Ravens held the Dinos to 13 points or fewer in each quarter, and the Dinos’ 49 points was their lowest offensive output of the season.
As a team, Calgary shot just 25% (16-of-64) from the field in the loss. Mambi Diawara (Montreal, Que.) led the Dinos with 13 points in defeat, while also posting five rebounds and two assists. David Kapinga was held to just three points on 1-of-13 shooting.
Tournament all-star forward Brett Layton (Calgary, Alta.) recorded 11 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.
For the Ravens, the usual suspects led the way in their wire-to-wire victory. Finals MVP Eddie Ekiyor (Ottawa, Ont.) capped off an impressive season with another double-double, posting 12 points and 15 rebounds. Yasiin Joseph (Ottawa, Ont.) led all scorers on the night with 20 points to go along with three assists.
Isiah Osborne capped off his first season at Carleton with a 15-point performance, while Munis Tutu chipped in with 18 points of his own.
After a brief one-year hiatus from the National Championship game, the Ravens flexed their muscle this post-season. With the exception of a tight game against the Dalhousie Tigers in the semi-finals, Carleton cruised to their 14th National Championship win.
Now, the attention shifts to the off-season and the 2019-20 season. The Dinos will turn the page and start a new chapter as the likes of Diawara, Kapinga, Mannes, and Lars Schlueter (Ulm, Germany) were all fifth-year seniors this season. There will be a changing of the guard for the Dinos and Head Coach Dan VanHooren, and it will be an interesting situation to follow over the course of the off-season.
For Carleton, they hope that this will start another lengthy title reign that will see the Ravens continually atop the rankings and among Canada’s best programs. As long as Dave Smart remains the Head Coach, the Ravens will be at or near the top of the OUA standings and in contention at the Final 8.
– T. Bennett