By now most should have realized how impactful to the result Ryerson’s 6’8″ Kadeem Green was, ostensibly un-nerving the Ravens inside with his spectacular rim protection. Probably the most important block of the game came with just over 3 minutes gone in the third quarter, Ravens up by 8 and the crowd losing steam. Carleton’s 6’5″ forward Guillaume Boucard burst to the rim after leaving his defender flat-footed at the top of the key – out of nowhere Green swooped in and reject Boucard’s attempt, re-igniting the sold-out crowd and turning the momentum squarely to the Rams for the first time all night. The “mo” would not turn back around to Carleton from that point onward.
Green’s key swat started an 18-8 run that gave Ryerson their first lead since early in the game, but more importantly re-instilled confidence in the listless Rams and they never really looked back. While archives of the game show many missed Carleton lay-ups down the stretch, what video doesn’t reveal are the footsteps Raven drivers subliminally heard when looking to finish. While Green still remains a somewhat-inconsistent scorer in the low post – he still does not command the double down – his progress defending the paint and running the floor makes him the most intimidating big at the CIS Final 8 this side of Thompson Rivers 6’11” star Josh Wolfram.
While the Ravens could not close in the second half on Saturday night amid the raw emotion that the wonderfully partisan crowd helped percolate, consider Carleton as “back” after many (most) had written them off in late January. 6’3″ Connor Wood is dialed-in, open looks are virtually automatic and, even amid foul trouble (more on the officiating below) 6’6″ Ryan Ejim was a factor vs. Ryerson, helping to create 9 second-chance opportunities for Carleton in the first half alone when Ravens built a 13 point halftime lead – Ejim had 10 points and 7 boards in only 12 minutes. Steady veteran Gavin Resch was not intimidated after struggling in the first game bringing up the ball and, as usual when Carleton is going well, Resch knocked down some timely 3’s (4 for 11 including 2 for 3 in the second half). Carleton was also able to give ample time to their pair of promising rookie wings in 6’3″ Marcus Anderson and 6’3″ Stanley Mayambo who were able to wet their ears in the highest-level game of the OUA season. While both had their challenges, expect these two top-end freshmen to help keep Carleton strong in years to come.
Special “toughness” award goes out to Ryerson’s 6’4″ dynamo Ammanuel Diressa who torched the Ravens for 20+ points in February. Diressa took an inadvertent shot in the mouth while jostling for a rebound and sideline observers witnessed a hockey-esque move as the first-year Ram removed whatever pieces of chicklet remained in his mouth and kept playing. Diressa later subbed off with many thinking his next stop would be the dentist’s chair. Instead, after a brief reprieve, Diressa came back to finish the game. Rams were able to win with just 6 points – 2-10 shooting – and 2 boards from their fine wing/guard.
The game unfortunately was filled with questionable decisions by the officials – by the end of the evening it was still difficult to determine what was and wasn’t a hand-check and many head-scratching whistles came on perimeter plays from referees with 4 or 5 bodies between them and the call – when most times a second referee was right on top of the play. The final foul count was 47 fouls – including a ridiculous 29 in the second half -between the 2 best teams in the conference and believe me the game was not played that way. I am relatively certain having watched numerous OUA games this season and prior that those three officials were not the best three in the conference for the showcase game of the OUA season. In contrast, the Bronze medal game – albeit an easier game to officiate – was done extremely well in my opinion by a crew that established early on what would and would not be called vis-a-vis the hand check and the players quickly adjusted, rendering the referees to the silent background, which for observers and (most) referees are usually very thankful.
Having also watched significant RSEQ action this season in which referee-induced astonishment is a nightly, multiple emotion, let’s hope that the best referees across the country arrive in Vancouver on merit alone. Last point on officiating: those of you who watched the Manitoba/Calgary affair saw arguably the most blatant display of terrible calls in this post-season late in the third and early in the fourth when Bisons were whistled for 6 fouls in the first two minutes of the fourth and Manitoba Head Coach Kirby Schepp had justifiably seen enough. After Bisons cut the lead to 3 midway through the third, Calgary took off on a 28-3 run during a 7 minute span during which Manitoba took 9 fouls against only 2 for Calgary. With Calgary now leading by 28 and Schepp having taken his “T”, Calgary got whistled for 4 fouls within the next minute of play. Ridiculous and not becoming of a product that has so much promise with coaches and players who put so much effort into making the product great.
I will attempt to limit the quantity of primarily factual data about foul counts that is alluded to on this site. But for someone who cares about our game, it is an ongoing frustration.