Canada’s top two varsity men’s basketball teams put on a thriller

Brock’s Dani Elgadi moves the ball past Carleton’s Eddie Ekiyor during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s varsity basketball game at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. Brock University photo

Brock University press release – To head coach Charles Kissi a loss is a loss, but when it’s an overtime loss to the seven-time defending national champions, it’s hard to be too upset.

Saturday night’s clash of the titans between the first-ranked Carleton Ravens and second-ranked Brock Badgers lived up to the hype as a packed house of 3,296 boisterous fans at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines were treated to an absolute thriller of a varsity men’s basketball game.

When the dust settle, Carleton had won the game 80-75 in overtime, but the fourth quarter had more plot twists than a primetime drama. It also put the Canadian basketball scene on notice that the Badgers have the depth and talent to take on the country’s best varsity teams.

“I think you saw it that we’re right there. We just have to make less mistakes,” Kissi said after the game. “They’re human. (Carleton) has had an incredible run with an incredible coach, but they’re human. They put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else and you have to approach the game that way. If you go into a game thinking you’re going to lose, then you’re going to.”

Brock, which drops to 9-2 after also losing to Ottawa Friday, was led by fourth-year forward Cassidy Ryan, who was on fire in the first quarter with eight points and finished the night with 20.
The Ravens improve to 10-0, but it’s the first game in the Ontario University Athletics season which they’ve won by fewer than 14 points, and the first time a team has pushed them to overtime this year.

That, however, was no consolation to Ryan.

“It’s a loss. I’m not satisfied with that,” he said. “I think we played pretty well, but we made a lot of mistakes down the stretch, which cost us the game.”

Brock was down 19-14 after the first quarter and 39-31 at the half, but the home side came out flying in the third quarter — outscoring the Ravens 19-14 to shrink the lead to three points.

Brock again outscored Carleton in the fourth quarter, this time taking the lead for the first time in the game early in the frame, and eventually opening the gap to six points — sending the crowd into a full-on frenzy.

But the Ravens fought back to tie it at 66-66, sending the game to overtime where the guests outscored Brock 14-9 for the 80-75 win. Behind Cassidy, Dani Elgadi had 16 points for Brock, Daniel Cayer had 11 and Johneil Simpson had 10. Yasliin Joseph led Carleton with 17.

“I feel really good about how good we are, I just think to try and get to the next level, we have to make less mistakes,” Kissi said.

On the women’s side of Saturday night’s basketball doubleheader, the Badgers got off to a great start, but didn’t have an answer for the powerful Carleton shooters and lost 60-41 decision.

It drops Brock to 4-7 while extending the Ravens’ undefeated record to 10-0.

“We’re so young and being consistent is a struggle,” Badgers head coach Ashley McSporran said. “Carleton is a beast so holding them to 60 points is a small victory. They’re learning and I’m being patient with them because I believe in them. I’m asking them to do things that are a little outside of their comfort zone. We’ll get there.”

The Badgers got off to a great start, outscoring the Ravens 12-10 in the first quarter, but Carleton’s shooting strength came alive in the second as the visitors outscored their hosts 20-6. They continued to extend the lead in the second half, going up 43-28 after three quarters en route to the win. Kristin Gallant and Baelie Campbell were the top scores for Brock with nine and eight points, respectively. Heather Lindsay led Carleton with 15.

Campbell said the atmosphere in the Meridian Centre helped, but that her team needs to perform regardless of where they play.

“Our team really feeds off the energy our fans give us,” she said. “I think it’s just a matter of us executing better. That comes with time. We’re a young team.”

Before the game Saturday night, Brock honoured the Badgers men’s basketball team that won a national championship in 2008. After playing an alumni game earlier in the day, the players from that title-winning team took in the Brock-Carleton games.

For Mike Kemp, seeing more than 3,200 fans packing the Meridian Centre to watch a Brock basketball game was a very good sign.

“To see the program where it is now — because it struggled for a little bit — Brock Basketball is in the best place it’s been since we were there,” said Kemp. “And I would argue that this team is a lot more talented than we were in 2008.

“The one thing we had over every team in the country is we all grew up together. That’s a rare thing to happen at a high level of sport.”

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