The 10th edition of the Capital Hoops Classic goes tonight at the Canadian Tire Center in suburban Ottawa (Kanata) and for the first time in several years, neither uOttawa Gee-Gees or Carleton Ravens hold #1 ranking in the CIS. Still, #2 Gee-Gees (21-3, 11-1) and #3 Carleton Ravens (15-3, 10-2) remain very viable CIS Nationals contenders, each team’s loss in Toronto to #1 Ryerson notwithstanding. Last season’s game broke the attendance record for this event, attracting 10,780 fans in a #1 vs. #2 affair. Carleton leads the Capital Hoops Classic series 8-1, winning the past 8 in a row.
uOttawa has held in well recently despite not having pre-season Moser Award-candidate 6’3″ Caleb Agada in the lineup since the last time these two teams met (an Ottawa victory at Carleton) three weeks ago. Agada injured his ankle late in that game and the Ottawa Sun’s game preview did not address whether Agada will be available this evening – at the time of his injury it was estimated that Agada would be out “2-3 weeks”. While Agada clearly provides Gee-Gees with an athletic wing who can get to the rim, his biggest effect on games is usually as a defender – many a quality guard or wing have been challenged by Agada’s length, strength and quickness. If he does play this evening and is healthy, expect Agada to spend meaningful minutes on Carleton’s best overall player, 6’2″ Kaza Keene (pictured above).
Without Agada, the Gee-Gees held up well at now #1 Ryerson two weeks ago – the game was tied with under 2 minutes to play – before Rams stiffened on a couple of defensive possessions to pull out the victory. Gee-Gees also held firm despite not having 6’1″ Mike L’Africain, who is playing at an All-Canadian level – back-to-back 30+ point games last weekend – for much of the second half of the Ryerson game due to foul trouble.
Comparatively, the Ravens, after busting out to an early 16-4 lead, struggled for long stretches of the game against Ryerson despite outrebounding the Rams. Also, last weekend’s win over Queen’s was much more difficult than in past games with the game tied early in the fourth.
Both newcomers to this series, Keene and 6’6″ Ryan Ejim, performed reasonably well in the home loss to the Gee-Gees – their first encounter with the so-called Canal Wars. However, Keene missed a couple of lay-ins down the stretch and generally struggled to consistently create space off the dribble. Ejim was effective inside however found the going difficult against Ottawa’s pair of bigs 6’8″ Nathan McCarthy and 6’6″ Brody Maracle, the ex-Raven.
Once again this game promises to produce memorable moments with point guard play the likely deciding factor: L’Africain made two big plays down the stretch of the first game that Ottawa won in comeback fashion.
#1 Ryerson hosts Laurier while #5 Brock travels to U of T in other Top 10 games involving OUA teams this evening.