OTTAWA, Ont. - The Carleton Ravens men's basketball team continued their postseason run on Friday night, defeating the Brock Badgers 89-64 to advance to the championship game of the Wilson Cup Final Four.
Kaja Kajami-Keane (Ajax, ON) led the Ravens in their semifinal matchup with the No. 4 seeded Badgers, finishing with a huge statline of 25 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists in the Raven's biggest game of the year thus far. Johneil Simpson had a terrific game for the Badgers in their loss, finishing with 24 points and 5 triples off of the bench.
Tyler Brown of the Badgers began the festivities early, taking a defensive rebound coast-to-coast to open up the scoring. Marcus Anderson (Brampton, ON) of the Ravens scored his team's first points off a triple, but Daniel Cayer of the Badgers answered right back on the other end with a triple of his own. Brock's Cassidy Ryan and Carleton's Connor Wood (Guelph, ON) traded dunks to close out the opening quarter, and after Ryan Bennett missed three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt, the Ravens led the Badgers 16-9 at the end of one.
"I didn't shoot the ball very well to begin the game," said Kajami-Keane. "I just kept on playing my game, getting my teammates involved - that's what Carleton basketball is all about."
The Ravens' Kajami-Keane opened up the second quarter with a quick reverse layup, and the Ravens began the quarter on a 5-0 run. The Badgers stayed close with some tremendous defence, holding the Ravens to just 33.3% shooting from the field in the first half, compared to their 50.1% shooting on the season. The Ravens seemed to gain control of the game after Anderson hit his third triple halfway through the second, but the Badgers stayed put, answering with a triple of their own. The Badgers cut into the Ravens lead as the half winded down thanks to the hot shooting of Johneil Simpson off the bench, who hit 3 triples in the last 4 minutes of the second, and they went into half trailing the ravens 36-26.
"We knew they were going to come out hard," said Anderson. "They weren't going to quit, so we just had to keep on coming."
Kajami-Keane and Simpson led their respective teams in scoring at the break with 11, but neither team shot well in the opening half, with the Badgers managing just 30.8% from the field to start. Anderson was a big part of the Ravens' success in the first half, almost posting a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds. The Ravens outrebounded the Badgers 26-11 in the first two quarters, the key to their early dominance in the game. Other than Simpson, no other Badger made more than one field goal in the half, highlighting their offencive struggles against the tough Ravens defence.
The two teams exchanged turnovers to begin the third, with neither able to take control of the game. Anderson hit his fourth triple of the game early in the second half to give the Ravens a boost, but Simpson stayed hot for the Badgers, responding with 8 points in the third while only missing one field goal. Nolan Mackenzie of the Badgers hit two free throws to put the Badgers within 11 with 27 seconds left in the quarter, but a Kajami-Keane went all the way to the rim on the other end to re-widen the gap, and the Ravens led the Badgers 58-45 going into the fourth.
The Ravens began the final quarter with a Kajami-Keane layup followed by Anderson's fifth triple of the game, but the Badgers refused to quit. Back-to-back triples for Mo Ismail around the midway point of the fourth gave the Badgers some life, but the Ravens' Connor Wood and Kajami-Keane took control of the game late, scoring 6 and 8 points respectively in the fourth to close it out for the Ravens.
Marcus Anderson had his best performance of the year, ending the game with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while also grabbing 4 steals on the defencive end.
"I work on my shot all the time," said Anderson. "I knew it might be our last game of the season, and they told me to shoot it, so I did."
Connor Wood, who had just 5 points at halftime, finished with 15 after a big second half. The Badgers' leading scorer Dani Elgadi was held to just 5 points, and was unable to make a field goal all game. No Badger apart from Simpson scored in double figures, with Trevor Thompson and Cassidy Ryan coming closest with 9 each.
"We knew if we kept (Elgadi) off the boards and played him physical, we would have a good chance of winning the game," said Anderson.
The Badgers actually outshot the Ravens in the game, shooting 21-for-53 (39.6%) compared to Carleton's 28-for-71 (39.4%), but the Ravens' 47-23 advantage on the boards all but guaranteed their semifinal victory.
Looking forward to the finals, Anderson says his team does not have a preference on which team they face. "We're going to have a good game plan for either team, we'll be ready," he said.
"The first thing for me was booking a ticket to nationals, that's the most important thing" said Kajami-Keane. "If we can win the OUA as well, that's something great that I - and other players on the team - have never accomplished."
With the win, the Ravens will now advance to the Wilson Cup final championship game on the night of Saturday, March 4th, for a chance at their tenth OUA title. Before that, however, the Badgers will play in the bronze medal game, looking to earn a spot in the U SPORTS national championship tournament in Halifax.