Photo by Trevor MacMillan

Title hopes fall to time as Rams repeat silver in Final 8 against Dinos

By Christian Ryan

HALIFAX, N.S. - An incredible journey spanning a year of true grit and resilience ends once again on the national stage.

The Ryerson Rams fell to the Calgary Dinos 79-77 in the U SPORTS Final 8 national championship gold medal game Sunday night at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The loss marks the Rams’ second consecutive silver medal in the national championships, as well as the Dinos’ first Final 8 title.

Having defeated longtime rival and roadblock Carleton Ravens, the Rams took to the court with their heads held high as the Ravens’ reign over U SPORTS basketball had been torn from their talons. Despite the familiar silver hardware, the program is still maintaining the pride that is synonymous with the stylized ‘R’ that adorns their jerseys.

“[It was a] tremendous ride,” Rams assistant coach Borko Popic said. “It’s been lots of adversity, lots of injuries that we faced, guys in and out of the lineup, different guys being asked to step up. For it to end in a national final, it just speaks to the grit, the commitment, and the hard work that our guys have put in all year. It certainly hurts now, but we can’t forget about the entire season and the complete picture that is still revealing itself now.”

Calgary made their presence known and unmistakable early, putting powerful and physical blocks on the Rams usual scoring threats. Each time the Dinos would stand tall and pull ahead by way of dazzling high-pressure shots by Lars Schlueter (Ulm, Germany), the Rams would ramp up the pressure and push back into the picture. Pushing into their first lead into the fourth quarter, the Rams fell to a six-point deficit late. Fighting back in the dying seconds, Manny Diressa (Toronto, Ont.) would even the game with a three, seemingly pushing the final into overtime. However, a final layup by Mambi Diawara (Montreal, Que.) with two seconds on the clock would seal the title for the Dinos.

Held scoreless early in the game, Diressa would prove to be the game-high scorer come the final buzzer. Alongside fellow graduating seniors Roshane Roberts (Vaughan, Ont.) and Adam Voll (Kitchener, Ont.), the Rams figureheads bookend their U SPORTS careers with valiant efforts and incredible prestige as Diressa was named Player of the Game and Championship All-Star, while Voll was awarded the R.W. Pugh Fair Play Award.

“[They are] huge parts of our team, program, our culture,” Popic said. “They’ve had a tremendous run with multiple national championship appearances, and two straight finals appearances. They’re the foundation of our program. We’re going to miss them, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for those guys.”

All the Rams needed was more time, both on the clock and in the careers of some key players. However, the team is in good hands moving forward as those gears have already been set in motion.

“Continue building,” Popic said. “We have young guys that are hungry, we have a number of returning guys that have lots of experience under our belt, and we’re excited. We’re looking forward to what’s to come, and we’ll be back out there working pretty quickly.”

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