OTTAWA, ON -The hometown Ottawa University Gee-Gees ended their season Sunday afternoon with a 95-85 overtime win over Acadia in the bronze medal match of the CIS Final 8, the best showing in program history, led by graduating senior, Warren Ward and a cast of capable younger players.
Ward finished his CIS career with 16 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in a game-high 40 minutes, impressive numbers for a player who worked his way back from an ACL injury suffered just over a year ago.
“I’m just happy that we won and I can end my career on a win,” said Ward. “I was a skinny kid [when I came to Ottawa] and now I think I’m a man and I’ve become the leader of this team and it’s just a really good feeling.”
Outside of Ward’s efforts, freshmen Mehdi Tihani and Caleb Agada played huge roles in the team win. Tihani finished with a game-high 23 points, while Caleb Agada provided defence and versatility off the bench.
“Coach told us to play loose and I was just shooting the ball with confidence and shots were falling for me,” said Tihani. “We definitely wanted to get a medal because that’s our best finish in school history and we wanted to finish strong for our seniors.”
Acadia’s player of the game was fourth-year senior Owen Klassen who had 20 points and six rebounds. Playing with three stitches under his right eye after an injury yesterday, the first team All-CIS forward said he’s already hungry for next season.
“I already want to play again,” said Klassen who fouled out with a minute remaining in overtime. “I could play tomorrow if I had the chance, I just want to keep playing.”
Klassen is excited for next season, saying, “We look pretty good. We’re losing two guys that bring a lot of energy to us and heart off the bench, but hopefully we can fill those spots.”
Axemen guard Tyler Scott missed a cance to win the game with a buzzer-beating triple at the end of regulation, but finished with 18 points including four three-pointers.
Acadia led 28-20 after the first quarter, but the Gee-Gees narrowed the lead to 37-35 at the half. In the second half Ottawa used the long ball to stage their comeback, sinking 15 treys on the game.
James Derouin has already led Ottawa to their finest finish in team history in just his third year as bench boss and is excited for the continued evolution of the program.
“I’ve got to be pretty positive,” said Derouin after the game. “We’ve got Gab out there with 14 points and five rebounds. Caleb again played great for us off the bench and then Medhi Tihani tonight, another freshman, 23 points, two boards, he was unbelievable tonight. I’m pretty excited about moving forward.”
Though Ward will be leaving the team and moving on, he believes he’s left the Gee-Gees in good hands.
“I think Ottawa U basketball is growing,” said Ward. “I don’t think there’s going to be just one guy with Johnny, Mike, Gab and Caleb and Mo that collective unit is going to be the basis of a good team.”