Sunday, March 18, 2007

Carleton wins fifth CIS title

Canada's own version of March Madness, the CIS men's basketball championships, wrapped up Sunday night in Halifax, and it was once again the Carleton Ravens taking home the title with a 52-49 win over the Brandon Bobcats.

It was the lowest-scoring national final in history, one in which both teams essentially tried to out-defend one another (especially during a ridiculously low-scoring second half), and that culminated in a missed Bobcats' buzzer-beating three pointer that would have sent the game to overtime.

The title win is the fifth consecutive for Carleton — which is a pretty unreal accomplishment.

I had a chance to talk to a few players and coaches prior to the game, including some of the Ottawa Gee-Gees who were holed up in their Halifax hotel rather than heading to watch the game. Ottawa had lost badly to Carleton the night before in the semi-finals, and I asked fifth-year Gee-Gees forward Jermaine Campbell if he felt the Bobcats would have a chance against the then four-time champs.

"If Carleton plays like they played last night, I don’t know if anybody will have a chance," he said.

Everyone I talked to prior to the game was from a team that had either lost to Carleton or Brandon, so few were exactly effusive in their praise for the teams that eliminated them from the tournament. Still, most were gracious in defeat.

"By far, Carleton’s been the dominant team here and it’s not a surprise with their experience at how they’re playing at this point," said Windsor Lancers coach Chris Oliver. "I think they’re the best team in the country and they’re playing like it.

"Brandon took it to us in the second half (of our game) and they’re very impressive athletically, just in terms of how they played hard and executed against us ... I think they’ve got a chance if they can defend the three-point line and keep Carleton out of transition."

As for why Carleton has been so ridiculously successful in Halifax, even when they haven't entered the tournament as the favourites, most pointed to their wealth of experience in big games.

"It's just the experience they have," said Campbell. "Winning four championships definitely gives you an edge at nationals."

"I think the match-ups suited them a little bit," said Oliver. "Getting a new team like Acadia here [in the opening game], who hadn’t played here before, and Carleton jumped all over them to start with, I think that was a good match-up for them. And then obviously, the battle of Ottawa is what it is — it’s an intense battle.

"But it’s just Carleton’s experience playing here in the Metro Centre, and if they get up, they keep going and you’ve got to make some plays to stay in it."

Brandon did that, but it was ultimately a young team's inability to remained poised as time ticked away that allowed the Ravens to pull this one out.

The tournament's now off to Ottawa for the next three years, meaning Carleton will get an automatic berth into the tournament all the way through 2010. Given coach Dave Smart's commitment to keep winning, you have to think at least a few more titles are in the works.



At 5:02 a.m., March 19, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

As a Carleton alum ('03), it's always great to see the Ravens do well. Some of my favourite university memories were watching games in the old Ravens Nest. It was great to watch the team rise in talent and prominance during my time at the school.

With all their success the past five years, I'm sure Ottawa will get excellent crowd support next year for the Final 8.

James, I am curious as to why Carleton would get an automatic berth every year the tourney is in Ottawa. During its run in Halifax there was no one team that always the host and as much as I hate to admit it, the Gee-Gees would be just as capable hosts as Carleton would be.


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