Toronto – Five East Division teams have secured their spot in the second season. The postseason also just so happens to be right around the corner, so when it comes to a pair of GTA squads looking to punch their ticket to those very playoffs, only one will continue their quest for the Wilson Cup, while the other will be left on the outside looking in. The Toronto Varsity Blues and York Lions are entering the final weekend with identical records, so when they faceoff in their respective finales as this week’s Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters, the fate of their seasons will be on the line.
It has been an up and down second half for Toronto, who kicked off their winter schedule with two closely-contested clashes against the nation’s capital powerhouses, before reeling off three straight wins against Nipissing, Queen’s, and this weekend’s opponent, York. Since that streak, however, the team has started to stumble toward the finish line with six straight losses since January 19.
While the losing streak certainly isn’t what the Varsity Blues were looking for to headline their home stretch, the win against York last month was one for the good books, especially if things come down to the tiebreakers. Three Toronto players notched double-digit scoring efforts in that one, with Evan Shadkami’s (Toronto, Ont.) 15 points leading the way. Christopher Barrett (Vaughan, Ont.) and Inaki Alvarez (Altafulla, Spain) chipped in with 12 and 11, respectively, in the win, while Chevon Brown’s (Toronto, Ont.) game-high 16 points paced the four double-digit Lions scorers (all starters).
York also has a six-game losing streak under their belts since coming back in January, which included their 63-58 defeat at the hands of the Blues, but have turned the tables around in their last four outings. Despite losses to Queen’s and Carleton – both of whom have already clinched playoff berths – the Lions earned a 20-point win over Nipissing and a critical 78-67 decision against the nationally-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees to help keep their playoff hopes intact.
Brown, like he has all season long, paced the Lions offensive attack in their upset victory, but the likes of DeAndrae Pierre (Brampton, Ont.) and Gene Spagnuolo (Maple, Ont.) were also instrumental for York. The former has made a name for himself in his first season in the OUA, pouring in 12.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while the latter is among the eight Lions – led by Brown’s 15.2 points per game – who have averaged more than five points for the seven-win squad. But while the team’s collective offensive weapons have resulted in a middle-of-the-pack result thus far, their defence has left something to be desired; allowing opponents to rack up 86.8 points per game for the year.
Toronto will need to take advantage of this 16th-ranked team defence, but will need to outperform their 15th-ranked offence (73.2 PPG) to do so. Despite a talented roster, the Blues haven’t been able to string together consistent offensive performances throughout the year, although they’ll hope to do just that when they close things out at the Goldring Centre. Shadkami will be at the forefront of these scoring hopes and will bring his 16.6 PPG average to the hardwood this weekend. Fellow guard Alvarez will be among those looking to add a punch to the offensive attack, while seniors Nikola Paradina (Toronto, Ont.) and Daniel Johansson (Stockholm, Sweden) are part of the team’s remaining top scorers eyeing playoff-worthy performances.
With so much on the line, both teams will need to step up when the lights are brightest if they don’t want to see their season come to end this weekend. Toronto, after securing their spot in the postseason a year ago, will surely look to use that experience to their advantage when they tip off on Saturday, while York will look to buoy the momentum of their tremendous improvement over last year’s two-win campaign to carry them into the final postseason position.
Only time will tell which GTA squad will step up in their final 40 minutes of regular season action and fans can find out who prevails once the festivities tip off at the Goldring Centre on February 16 at 8:00pm. To see all the action unfold – from the opening bucket to the final buzzer – fans can watch LIVE on oua.tv or via the oua.tv app on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, or Roku.