Men’s basketball ties record, wins seventh consecutive national title
As the clock ticked down, Ravens players rushed the court while the Rams hung their heads—the Carleton men’s basketball team had just won its seventh straight national championship on March 12.
A late push by the Ryerson Rams wasn’t enough, as the Ravens held on for a 78-69 win, and earned its 13th U SPORTS championship in 15 years, and tied the record set by the Victoria Vikes from 1980-86 for most consecutive titles.
“I came here two and half years ago with a plan to be a better basketball player, to be a better person, and I think I did that,” Ravens forward Ryan Ejim said after the game.
This was the third meeting between both teams this year, with the Rams taking the last game in the OUA championship.
“It’s hard when you don’t lose a game until March and then you’re faced with the fact you’re not the best team in the country,” Ravens assistant coach Rob Smart said.
The first quarter started differently from the last meeting between these two teams as the Ravens took an 8-0 lead two minutes in.
Ejim led the Ravens, scoring four, while forward Eddie Ekiyor dunked one.
The Rams got on the board late in the quarter but they fought their way back, bringing it to within one point in the final two minutes.
But the push wasn’t enough, as a big three by Ravens point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane gave the Ravens a 19-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter continued the same as the first, although the Rams scored first. The Ravens responded with a basket by Kajami-Keane and a three by Ravens sixth man Emmanuel Owootoah.
The Ravens continued the run, extending the lead 24-15 at one point. The Rams weren’t out, though, as a couple of threes and fouls brought the game 26-22. But Ryerson was playing catch-up and in the end the Ravens went into the half up 39-28.
The game changed in the second half as the Ravens came on with newfound intensity, extending the lead to over 20 points.
Kajami-Keane credited the team’s transition from defence to offence as the key to the lead.
“We were transitioning and we were trying to get out and get the ball going,” he said. “We weren’t slowing up . . . We just kept attacking, attacking, and it worked out for our benefit.”
The Ravens offence started to go cold towards the end of the third as a full-court press by the Rams resulted in turnovers. The Rams brought it to a nine-point game with a minute left before Ejim got the basket and the foul to keep the lead at 12—Ravens went into the fourth quarter up 63-51.
Ravens guard Connor Wood said he credited the Rams’ drive leading to the comeback.
“They just brought up the intensity,” Wood said of the Rams. “They started to get some shots, so they started to feel comfortable.”
The Rams started the fourth the way they finished the third, continuing the late-game push, bringing the game to six points. But Ejim came up big for his team again, hitting an inside jumper to get the Ravens offence moving.
The Rams brought it back to a six-point spread in the final minute of play, but it wasn’t enough—the Ravens held on, taking the game 78-69.
Carleton outscored the Rams in the paint 32-26, and they also out-rebounded the Rams 46-38.
Wood, the Ravens’ Player of the Game in the quarterfinals and semifinals, struggled in the final, scoring only six points. Ejim led the team in points, scoring 19 and grabbing nine rebounds.
Ejim, a transfer from the York Lions and on his second championship team in as many years, said he’s not sure which title is more special—it’ll take a bit of time to decide.
“It’s hard to tell right now, we aren’t done celebrating. I’ll let you know after that,” he said with a laugh.