Saturday, 24 October 2009

Toronto 81, Ottawa 77 in Overtime

In a wild game with numerous twists, momentum changes and dramatic shots including hail mary's plus a sprinkle of the local officiating we have come to expect, the Varsity Blues outlasted the Gee-Gees in overtime as 6'4" Ben Garvin's foul line jumper which rolled around and in with just under a minute to play gave Toronto the lead for good.

There were several dramatic moments in the final minutes of regulation and the overtime, beginning late in the fourth quarter with the Blues clinging to a two point lead after 6'5" Drazen Glizic tipping in a Nick Magalas miss (one of several offensive rebounds the Blues had down the stretch). On the subsequent Ottawa possession, 6'6" Warren Ward, who did not play at all in the first half, drove the lane and missed a layup with about 10 seconds remaining and with Magalas running the clock out in the back court, the game appeared over until Ward picked Magalas and then fed 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe for an apparent layup but he was fouled with 8.4 seconds remaining. After Blues coach Mike Katz wisely iced the fifth-year senior with a timeout, the Toronto native calmly sank both free throws and the teams were headed to overtime.

In the extra session, Varsity decided to come out in a zone, likely to protect their bigs including 6'6" Andrew Wasik who were in foul trouble. However, Gibson-Bascombe (27 points on 5-12 shooting from downtown) hit a 25 foot 3 and then Ward followed with another from downtown to give Ottawa a 6 point lead. Enter Blues smooth shooting guard Rob Paris, who's questionable shot selection down the stretch of regulation allowed Ottawa to get back in the game, who, with the shot clock at under a second, heaved a desperation 3 from about 30 feet away just in front of the scorer's table which fortunately for the Blues swished and gave the Blues the one final life they needed. After Ottawa's Nemanja Baletic rushed a three, Paris launched another three, this time a legitimate NBA stroke from about 28 feet straight on to give the Blues their first lead of the overtime at 76-74. After 6'8" Louis Gauthier converted a layup off a nice feed from Baletic to tie the game, Garvin hit his jumper and then Gauthier went 1-2 from the line with 28.7 seconds remaining. The Blues were able to keep from being fouled until the ball went out of bounds under Toronto's basket with 3 on the shot clock and 8 seconds on the game clock. Toronto entered the ball into Magalas, who hit another crazy 3 with a hand in his face and the shot clock at zero for the final margin.

Paris had 24 to lead Toronto while Magalas added 15 and Wasik 14, Garvin 12.

Truth be told, the fourth quarter and overtime did not highlight the best these teams can offer as there were frequent turnovers, questionable decision making, rushed shots, offensive rebounds and some headscratching calls that infuriated both coaches. However, in terms of sheer excitement, this game ranked up there with any of the previous Katz/DeAveiro U of T/Ottawa classics.

The Blues rode their veteran guards Magalas and Paris to forge an 8 point first half lead but DeAveiro substituted sophomore Ward into the lineup in the second half for his first minutes of the game and he and Donnie Gibson helped Ottawa reduce the deficit to 5 entering the fourth. Ottawa's ball defense and help off the ball was filled with much more energy and effort but an inability to limit Toronto to one shot when it really mattered helped the Blues win the game.

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