Late surge powers Gee-Gees past Wesmen
More experienced Ottawa saves best for last to defeat hosts for Classic crown
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Shawn Maranan didn’t need any extra inspiration for Friday night’s Wesmen Classic men’s basketball final.
Playing in the biggest game of the season so far before a boisterous crowd that sensed an upset brewing at Duckworth Centre, the lightning quick University of Winnipeg point guard scored 17 points and added five assists and a pair of steals and very nearly led the Wesmen to victory over the powerhouse Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Ottawa’s 70-61 victory was definitely hard-earned. Led by tournament MVP Guillaume Pepin’s 17 points and five rebounds, the Gee-Gees broke open a tie game with a superb fourth-quarter burst, hitting five three-pointers en route to the victory.
“I think their pace kind of got us a little bit but they play with great chemistry, great cohesion over there,” said 5-8 Maranan, named a tournament all-star. “That’s just a talented team they have.”
Maranan was magic in the opening quarter, scoring 11 of Winnipeg’s points as the hosts surged to a 20-17 lead.
“I felt like that we had a little bit more juice there at the end,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin. “And I thought that was a credit to our defence. Their little point guard is fantastic, but I thought our body punches just wore him down and wore him down. And then without him orchestrating their offence, they were kind of looking around.”
Gee-Gees sharpshooter Kevin Otoo’s 11 first-half points helped keep the visitors close in the early going. Otoo, also named to the tournament all-star squad, finished with a game-high 18 points.
The teams went to halftime tied 35-35 but the third quarter appeared to signal a shift for Ottawa’s balanced, more veteran squad.
Ottawa scored the first nine points of the half but the Wesmen, ranked 14th in the most recent U Sports coaches poll, refused to go away with Alberto Gordo and Malachi Alexander providing timely offence. A three-pointer from tourney all-star Donald Stewart put Winnipeg into a 47-47 tie after three quarters.
Gordo and Alexander finished the game with 11 and 15 points, respectively.
“I thought we came out with good fight,” said Maranan. “We knew how big of a game this is going to be. We know how talented the Ottawa Gee-Gees are and we wanted to just compete as hard as we could. And then they went on a run when we were we were getting tired and they have a good group over there. They execute every play and they move the ball pretty well. They’re a pretty great team.”
Derouin said the teams were well-matched.
“I thought it was a young team versus maybe a little bit more experienced team,” said Derouin. “I thought we executed our stuff down the stretch and they’ll learn from this — they’re gonna be a really good team. I really liked their personnel.”
Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault was chagrined to let the game get away in the fourth quarter but he saw good progress from his squad.
“The entire group responded to some of the things that we didn’t think we did extremely well yesterday (in a semifinal win over the Brandon Bobcats),” said Raimbault. “We took care of the ball, we dealt with some pressure and I thought we were a little bit more composed and were able to get organized offensively.”
Bobcats 96 Cougars 76
Brandon started slowly, trailing by five after the first quarter before taking a 45-44 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Jahmaal Gardner had 23 points and six rebounds as the Bobcats stormed to the tournament’s third-place title. Tournament all-star Elisha Ampofo added 21 points and seven rebounds while teammate Khari Ojeda-Harvey added a game-high nine rebounds and 17 points for the winners.
Regina’s Jalen Edwards, a tournament all-star, and Hayden Collier replied with 14 points apiece.
Bisons 97 Thunderbirds 71
Forward Cieran O’Hara had a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Herd to its lone win of the tournament in the seventh-place game against the Algoma Thunderbirds. O’Hara also chipped in with a pair of steals, two assists and two blocked shots.
Brandt Lenz, with 16 points, Simon Hildebrandt, with 15, and Daren Watts, with 10, also reached double-figures for the winners. Lenz was four-for-five from behind the three-point line.
Patrick-Olivier Mpoyi had 18 points to lead the Thunderbirds, who are based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Golden Bears 100 Rouge et Or 75
Julian Vaughns scored 18 points, including five three-pointers on eight attempts, to spark No. 6 Alberta to victory in the consolation final. Teammates Abdullah Shittu and Isaac Simon added 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the winners.
Steeve Joseph poured in 29 points for Laval.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.