Photo by Alex D'Addese

Rams advance to team's first national title game

By Andrea Elliott
HALIFAX, N.S. - The Ryerson Rams men's basketball team overcame a slow start and a raucous hometown crowd supporting Dalhousie, then had their fate in the hands of Tigers' Kashrell Lawrence who hoisted up a potential game-winning shot as the buzzer expired during Saturday's national semifinal.

Luckily for the Rams, that shot clanged off the iron and Ryerson emerged with a 59-58 victory to advance to the team's first ever national championship game.

BOXSCORE

The men's basketball team has won two consecutive bronze medals at the national tournament but that colour of hardware is guaranteed to get an upgrade this season.

"It was a special win, I don't think it's really all soaked in for us because we're already moving on for tomorrow. We'll savour it for a little bit in the locker room and then get on the bus and try to get better," said head coach Roy Rana following the game.

The difference maker in this one was the play of third year forward Filip Vujadinovic. Coming off the bench, Vujadinovic netted a game-high 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting and picked up five rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes of action.

"I was just trying to be physical, that was my game plan coming in," said Vujadinovic. "I knew they were strong, I saw them against Alberta and I knew that it was going to be a tough game, a physical game. I ended up getting some open shots, some open layups, and I just made the most of my opportunity."

The Rams struggled out of the gate, turning the ball over nine times and shooting just 25.0% in the first quarter. Dalhousie used the fuel of their "sixth man" to jump out to a 16-9 advantage after ten minutes.

In the second quarter, First-Team All-Canadian Adika Peter-McNeilly showed the country why he was named one of the best players in the nation. He led the Rams with nine points in the quarter and set the tone at the defensive end as well. With 3:30 remaining in the quarter Peter-McNeilly raced back to block what seemed to be a sure dunk from Dalhousie's Sven Stammberger, and the Rams took the lead two minutes later.

That lead wouldn't last at halftime, however, as the Tigers' Jarred Reid hit a three pointer to give Dalhousie a 29-27 lead at the break.

Coming out of halftime, the Tigers elected not to come out for warmup on the court and it looked to cost them early. Ryerson started the third quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 34-31 lead and force an early Dalhousie timeout. The Tigers settled in, however, and responded with a 7-2 run of their own to retake the lead.

After Vujadinovic finished a nice pass from Manny Diressa at the end of the shot clock with 4:50 to play, Ryerson's offence came up stagnant, not scoring again until there was just 20 seconds left in the quarter. The defence held strong though, keeping the Tigers in check. Through 30 minutes the Rams trailed 42-40.

In the fourth the Rams came out strong with a quick 6-0 run to force another early Tigers timeout. Ryerson went up by as many as six points with 4:45 left after Vujadinovic scored eight straight for the Rams.

Known for their ability to come back in games, Dalhousie showed they weren't ready to give up on a chance to play for a national title. Kashrell Lawrence put the team on his back and got the Tigers within two at 56-54 with two minutes to play.

After some back and forth action, Tigers guard Stammberger connected for two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to make it a 59-58 game. On the ensuing inbounds play, Peter-McNeilly thought he was fouled but while trying to escape a trap stepped on the sideline to give the ball back to the Tigers.

With the fate of both teams in his hands, Lawrence took one final shot as the buzzer sounded but it did not fall and the Rams escaped with the one point victory.

"From day one we've been talking about the mental side and what it takes to win big games. We've had some heartbreakers in the last three or four seasons and it's special to see this group be able to figure out (a) way," said Rana.

Waiting for the Rams in the national final are the Carleton Ravens, winners of the last six U SPORTS titles.

"It'll be special to win a national championship against any team, but certainly the challenge of Carleton is something that's unique because of what they've been able to accomplish. It's a tremendous opportunity and that's what we talk about...the opportunity for these young men to play for a national championship, to get this experience, it's something they're going to remember for the rest of their lives," said Rana.

The U SPORTS final will be an all-OUA affair as the Rams battle the Ravens in a rematch of the OUA Wilson Cup from last weekend in which Ryerson emerged victorious.

The championship game is set for 1:00 p.m. ET time and is available on Sportsnet 360 and by stream at now.sportsnet.ca

TOP HEADLINES

http://www.mattamyathleticcentre.ca/https://portal.stretchinternet.com/oua/

RAMS NETWORK

  • RECENT VIDEOS
  • RECENT VIDEOS
  • Video Highlights
  • Video Features
Basketball (M)
Profile: Ammanuel Diressa (part 1)
Basketball (M)
Men's basketball broadcast intro
Basketball (M)
Highlights: MBB vs Laurier, Nov. 25, 2017
Basketball (M)
Highlights: MBB vs Brock, Nov. 8, 2017
Basketball (M)
#PackTheMac Basketball Home Openers
Basketball (M)
Feature: Isadore Sharp - Hall of Fame Induction
Ryerson Rams Care