Calgary stuns Ryerson, will play Carleton in CIS Final 8 title game


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VANCOUVER - Thomas Cooper has the Calgary Dinos one step from history.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/03/2016 (2634 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

VANCOUVER – Thomas Cooper has the Calgary Dinos one step from history.

The guard scored 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as No. 4 Calgary stunned the top-ranked Ryerson Rams 98-87 on Saturday in the semifinals of the CIS Final 8 men’s basketball tournament.

A fourth-year transfer from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, Cooper scored 11 points in the opening quarter as the Dinos stormed out to a 27-13 lead and never really looked threatened in cruising to their first berth in the championship game since the program’s only other trip in 1966.

Ryerson Rams
Ryerson Rams' Filip Vujadinovic, centre, and his teammates sit on the bench during the final moments of their loss to the University of Calgary Dinos during semifinal CIS men's national university basketball championship action in Vancouver on Saturday, March 19, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

“A few guys were nervous on our team, which is natural. We’ve never been here before,” said Cooper, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., who averaged 25.8 points per game in the regular season. “I just wanted to come out and get a good start, which I did. It just helped lead my team to get more energy. Everybody ramped up.

“We just kept our foot on the gas.”

Calgary will be going for its first men’s basketball crown on Sunday against the powerhouse Carleton Ravens, who have won five straight titles and advanced with a 76-66 win over the No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers in Saturday’s other semifinal.

“First team I heard about,” Cooper said of the No. 2 Ravens. “We’ve got to treat it like it’s another team. Nobody expected us to win today.”

David Kapinga added 26 points for the Dinos and Jasdeep Gill chipped in with 23 thanks to 4 of 7 shooting from three, but it was Cooper who stirred the drink for the Dinos all night.

“How do you describe it? He’s a leader, he’s confident, he brings a level of confidence to the other guys,” said Calgary head coach Dan Vanhooren. “He’s a walking event for us.”

Adika Peter-McNeilly led the way with 22 points and 11 boards for Ryerson, which survived a scare in the opening round against No. 8 UBC, but was unable to overcome another slow start against Calgary.

“It’s something we talk about a lot — not to play with fire,” said Rams interim head coach Patrick Tatham. “The hole we were playing in … there’s only so much you can do before the magic runs out. It ran out tonight, that’s for sure.”

Ryerson beat Carleton last weekend for its first OUA title, but will have to settle for a third-place game with Dalhousie.

“It’s been a great year,” said Tatham. “We made some history at school.”

The Rams cut the deficit to 56-51 midway through the third quarter, but Gill nailed back-to-back threes to stretch his team’s edge to 11. The fourth-year guard from Chestermere, Alta., who comes off the bench, then added another triple that he celebrated with a bicep flex as Calgary led 71-61 heading to the fourth.

“My coaches have had trust in me all year to go out there and knock down those shots,” said Gill. “The groove just started.”

In the other semifinal, Connor Wood scored 18 points to pace Carleton. The fourth-year guard from Guelph, Ont., was the offensive catalyst, finishing 4 of 9 from three, but it was the Ravens’ top-ranked defence that was the difference against Dalhousie.

“That’s our main focus,” said Wood. “Everything else will take care of itself.”

Fourth-year forward Ryan Ejim of Toronto added 20 points for the Ravens, while Kashrell Lawrence, a fourth-year guard from Brampton, Ont., led the Tigers with 18.

Carleton is within one win of a sixth straight title and 12th in 14 years despite being a team in transition. The Ravens lost star siblings Philip and Thomas Scrubb to graduation after the 2014-15 season, while head coach Dave Smart stepped away from the program this year on sabbatical.

The Ottawa university also won five straight championships from 2003 to 2007 and can creep closer to the Victoria Vikes’ record of seven straight titles (1980-1986) with a victory at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Sunday.

“We really try to foster a culture of healthy competitiveness where it’s OK to want to fight, it’s OK to want to battle every single day and prove yourself,” said Carleton interim head coach Rob Smart, Dave’s nephew. “It doesn’t mean you’re some kind of egomaniac. It just means that for those two hours you compete and it’s the most fun thing to do.”

Note: Tournament host UBC defeated No. 3 Ottawa 93-76 in Saturday’s fifth-place game.

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