Ravens earn first ticket to U Sports men's basketball final, set to play X-Men

HALIFAX — The third-seeded Carlton Ravens have something to crow about — they're the first team to reach Sunday's final in the U Sports men's Final 8 national basketball championship.

The Ravens, led by Connor Vreeken's 27 points, defeated the second-seeded University of Ottawa Gee-Gees 81-75 on Saturday and will now face STFX X-Men in Sunday's final, following the X-Men's 77-65 upset win over the top-seeded Victoria Vikes on Saturday night.

Aiden Warnholtz scored 21 points for the Ravens and Marjok Okado chipped in with 11.

Dragan Stajic led the Gee-Gees with 16 points, while Guillaume Pepin had 14 and Cole Newton added 12.

The Ravens led 40-33 at halftime and 64-52 heading into the final quarter.

A double-double by David Muenkat led the No. 4-seeded X-Men to the upset. The X-Men came out quickly, building a 5-0 lead in the first few possessions. The fast pace kept up throughout the first 10 minutes, with the X-Men building a 26-14 lead before the end of the quarter.

Victoria went on a 10-4 run in the first four minutes of the second to cut into the X-Men lead. The loud Scotiabank Centre crowd favoured the tournament host X-Men, who looked to recover the momentum, but it was the Vikes who carried much of the quarter. Bennett Grumbach drained a buzzer beating three to end the half, sending the X-Men to the locker room with a 43-36 lead.

The X-Men came out with a 10-3 run in the first three minutes of the second half, stretching their lead to 14 points, their biggest margin of the game, with 6:43 to play in the third. However, UVic replied and cut the margin to seven at 61-54 after three quarters.

Victoria came out with some jump in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to three points in the first two minutes. The X-Men replied with a 6-0 run of their own to restore their nine-point lead at 71-62 with 4:11 to go. The Vikes could draw no closer in the late stages as the X-Men completed the upset.

Victoria's Dominick Oliveri was the Nike Top performer for his team, bringing in 24 rebounds and chipping in three points. Diego Maffia led the Vikes in scoring with 20 points.

For the victorious X-Men, Muenkat, the national defensive player of the year, scored 10 points and grabbed a team-high 19 rebounds to earn Nike Top Performer honours. Dondre Reddick and Avan Nava led the X-Men on the scoreboard with 17 points apiece.

BASELINES: In consolation round games on Saturday, the UQAM Citadins beat the Winnipeg Wesmen 90-85 in double overtime, while the Queen's Gaels dunked UPEI Panthers 93-68. UQAM will play Queen's on Sunday in the fifth-place game. Ottawa will play Victoria in Sunday's bronze-medal final.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2023.

The Canadian Press