TORONTO (CIS) – The No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees stormed back from a 10-point third quarter deficit to knock off the No. 7 Ryerson Rams 84-75 in semifinal action on Saturday night to punch their ticket to the 2015 ArcelorMittal Dofasco CIS Final 8 men's basketball championship game, at the Mattamy Centre.
Ottawa's Vikas Gill (Stittsville, Ont.) was a difference maker for the Gee-Gees, finishing with 18 points – which tied his season best - on 6-of-11 shooting including 5-of-7 from three-point range. The fourth-year guard, who had 13 of his points in the third quarter, was named the player of the game for his performance.
The two teams slugged it out offensively in the first quarter, combining for 47 points in the first 10 minutes of play. Ottawa led 25-22 heading into the second.
Ryerson's defence stepped up in the second quarter, started by drawing back-to-back charge calls which the Rams converted into points. An Adika Peter-McNeilly (Scarborough, Ont.) floater in the lane gave the Rams their first lead of the game at 27-26 with 7:35 to play. Ryerson fed off the hometown crowd's energy and had built a seven point lead just 1:30 later. The seven point spread held at halftime with the Rams leading 45-36.
One of the game's two key moments came early in the third quarter when Ryerson's Aaron Best (Scarborough, Ont.) missed an uncontested dunk which was then transitioned into a Gill three-pointer.
"We were struggling on offence in the first half and just needed some kind of lift," said Gill following the game. "We got lucky, Best is very athletic and he just missed the dunk which gave us transition numbers which was huge. It gave us the momentum we needed and quieted the crowd down a little."
Gill then took over the quarter, netting 13 points in the frame. At the end of the quarter the Rams' lead had disappeared and the Gee-Gees held a 61-57 lead after dominating the period 25-12.
In the fourth, the teams traded blows and with 3:50 to play, Ryerson's Peter-McNeilly connected from three-point territory to tie the game at 67-67. On the ensuing defensive stand, Peter-McNeilly picked up his fifth foul, marking the second turning point in the game. The third year-guard finished with a team-high 17 points and his scoring touch was missed down the stretch.
Ottawa scored five straight points to take a 76-69 lead with a minute to go and the Gee-Gees sealed the victory with some clutch free throw shooting to nullify a pair of Rams three-pointers.
"It's an emotional time," said Ryerson bench boss Roy Rana following the loss. "I feel for our guys... I wish it could have been a different result but that's sports. Sometimes there's great glory and sometimes it's great heartbreak. For us tonight it's heartbreak... but we're going to try and chase bronze tomorrow."
The Gee-Gees return to the national championship game for the second straight year and the second time in program history - where they will once again face the No. 1 ranked Carleton Ravens, who defeated Ottawa 79-67 in last year's CIS final. The duel is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, live on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet ONE.
Ryerson will take on the Victoria Vikes at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in the bronze medal contest. Win or lose, the Rams will finish with the best result in team history at the national tourney.