The Carleton Ravens have won the U SPORTS (formally CIS) National Championship, beating the Calgary Dinos 83–49.
“After being in this game and being in it two years ago I don’t think there’s anyone really at the same level that Carleton’s at right now,” Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren said after the game.
The Ravens have now won a national championship 14 of the last 17 years.
The 2018 season didn’t end with a national championship for the Ravens after they were knocked out in the semi-finals, something that third-year forward Eddie Ekiyor said kept him motivated all year. “As soon as that game ended last year Dave [Smart] told us, ‘don’t forget this feeling.’”
Ekiyor added, “Last year we didn’t prepare the way we should’ve for the semi-final, this year no matter what happened we never got ahead of ourselves.”
Something that helped the Ravens keep a level head this season was the pushback they got during the regular season, Smart remarked of his team’s road to this national championship.
“We had some struggles, in January we were really up and down.” Smart added. “I’m not sure we were consistent all year.”
Smart noted that his team began playing up to their potential when the Ravens beat the Brock Badgers in the OUA semi-finals.
One thing the Ravens do in big games is get off to a fast start, and they did just that Sunday night.
They raced out to an early 9-0 lead just two minutes into the game. But Calgary kept it close after the opening 10 minutes and it was just a seven-point game.
But the Ravens took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Dinos 24-10, creating a 21-point lead going into the half.
A big difference in the opening half was the Ravens defence giving the Dinos headaches.
After 20 minutes, they were +12 in points off turnovers and had limited one of Calgary’s biggest weapons.
After winning player of the game honours in both the Dinos’ opening games, Mambi Diawara was held to just four points and had four turnovers in the opening half.
Carleton was also able to shut down the 2018 national championship game MVP David Kapinga. Kapinga was 1-9 in the opening half with three points and two assists.
“They’re a next level basketball team, and we knew what we were getting into coming into this game,” Vanhooren said. “We dribbled the ball all over the floor and you can’t do that against a team like Carleton.”
Diawara opened the second half on a 5-0 run of his own, quickly bringing the Ravens lead down to 16. He added to his total and finished with nine points in the third but his teammates struggled and went 2-16 with just four points.
By limiting the rest of the Dinos output, Carleton was able to add another seven points to their already large cushion and took a 28-point lead into the final 10 minutes.
Kapinga never got going and went scoreless in the second half, playing just five minutes.
His right knee was heavily wrapped and taped and as the game went on he was noticeably favouring his right side.
“He hurt his knee in Fraser Valley before the playoffs and we’ve been managing it since then,” Vanhooren said. “I think the three games in three days fatigued it to a point where when he would plant, it was collapsing on him.”
This year’s tournament saw a noticeable format change, removing a day off and making teams play three games in three days on their way to a championship.
When asked if he noticed a difference in his team’s performance, Vanhorn paused and said, “Yeah.” He then added, “it’s tiring and fatiguing for sure, that win against Ryerson took everything out of us and it had an effect on us today.”
Smart thought the three games would have an effect on the Dinos’ big man Brett Layton. “We just wanted to wear him out,” Smart said. “Three games in three days is hard for a 20-year-old, it’s got to be hard for a 28-year-old law student with two kids.”
Carleton will look to defend their national championship next year when the tournament is hosted in their own city of Ottawa.