Ottawa's Johnny Berhanemeskel (left) holds his CIS silver medal (Justin Tang, CP)
Blink and you missed when the silver medals were around the necks of Johnny Berhanemeskel and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue.
The runner-ups at the Final Four get to retreat to the locker room. At the CIS Final 8, falling in the final involves lining up for the medal presentations, like and lump it. The Ottawa Gee-Gees — "by far the best team I think I've played in my five years here in the CIS," tournament MVP Tyson Hinz said after putting up 30 in his final university game — rolled their boulder farther up Mt. Carleton than any team has over the past four years, only to be crushed by it. For 2½ quarters, James Derouin's team hung in even while its best big, Gonthier-Dubue, was battling foul trouble and star Terry Thomas was vexed by Hinz, who limited the small forward to 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
A silver medal represents the best finish in the downtown Ottawa program's history, and also how far it still has to go. C'est la vie.
"It's just bittersweet," said Berhanemeskel, the crafty fourth-year guard who emptied the tank while scoring a team-high 19 points during the 79-67 loss in front of 7,050 at the Canadian Tire Centre. "That's just how I am. I'm a competitor. At the end of the game, I want to be having the gold around my neck. Me and Gab have gone through the grind together for the past four years and we've got one more year to do it now."
Taking on Carleton, Laval in football, or the Windsor Lancers in women's hoops means the tally posted on the scoreboard is not the actual score. A 20-point lead over any of those CIS juggernauts is like being tied with a mid-pack team. The pregame scuttlebutt was that Ottawa had a shot if it could build a big early lead. Instead, it was was down two after one quarter and trailed by two again at recess. Then Carleton happened, with a characteristic third quarter. Phil Scrubb, limited to 16 points on 3-for-14 shooting, scored the Ravens' first seven of that period to create a gap.
"I think we had a chance to do some things early on that could have given us a better cushion and that kind of hurt us in the third quarter," Berhanemeskel said. "There were a couple bounces and rebounds down the stretch."
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