The Carleton Ravens ran over the competition in the Final 8 tournament and wrote the final chapter of the Lakehead Thunderwolves’ Cinderella story. Head coach Dave Smart’s squad won their ninth national title since the 2002-03 season. The Ravens won in a convincing fashion, setting the CIS record for margin of victory with a 50-point blowout.
After sweeping aside the University of Victoria Vikes in the quarter-final and the Acadia Axemen in the semi-final, the no. 1 seed Ravens found themselves facing off against a familiar rival. The name of the front of the jerseys was not new, but the team was. This was not the Thunderwolves squad that CIS fans were accustomed to seeing.
Ryan Thomson, the squad’s leading scorer and face of the program, tore his ACL in the OUA semi-final. Yoosrie Sahlia was playing with three slipped discs in his back. Greg Carter dislocated his shoulder in the CIS semi-final against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. He also played the final three minutes of that game with the shoulder out of its socket.
Despite the injuries, no .7 seed Lakehead managed to get to the CIS championship by playing their trademark tough defence and getting incredible offensive performances from Ben Johnson and Joseph Jones.
By the time they met the mighty Ravens, their luck had ran out. Carleton was more than prepared for the Lakehead game plan. An 11-0 run for the Ravens to start the first quarter all but ended the Thunderwolves’ miracle run. Smart and his crew were well prepared for their opponents, locking down the three-point line while attacking the banged-up defenders.
The Scrubb brothers were magnificent, combining for 32 points. Carleton’s defence also held the Lakehead offence to an effective field goal percentage under 30 per cent.
Carleton will return the majority of their roster next season, making them an early lock for CIS favourites in 2013-14.
The 92-42 victory meant that Carleton now holds the record for the most men’s basketball CIS championships. They overtook the Victoria Vikes with their ninth win.
The silver-medal finish for Lakehead is the best in the program’s history, but it appears to be a mark that won’t be bested any time soon. Head coach Scott Morrison will say goodbye to six members of the team as they finish their fifth year of eligibility.
Their graduation also symbolizes the end of the “Great Group of Dudes,” a nickname the team earned after the Globe and Mail ran a profile of the squad in 2008. When Kiraan Posey was talking to the Globe about his experiences with the team, he said, “I love it here. It’s just a great group of dudes.”
As the group departs, Lakehead will have to rebuild, and Morrison has a tough climb ahead of him if he wants to get back to the Final 8 tournament.
This year’s Final 8 created a few more narratives.
There was a clear flaw in the seeding, all but confirming the need for an upgraded ranking system. The Cape Breton Capers were the no. 2 seed at the tournament but did not look anything close to the second best team in contention. Lakehead beat them by double digits and the McGill Redmen defeated them 86-84 in the consolation semi-finals.
The OUA as proved to be the strongest conference in the CIS when it comes to men’s basketball. Carleton and Lakehead grabbed the gold and silver medals, respectively, and the Ottawa Gee-Gees finished with bronze medals around their necks after defeating the Acadia Axemen in an intense overtime game.
Going forward, the landscape of the CIS may change as key players like Cape Breton’s Jimmy Dorsey and Ottawa’s Warren Ward graduate. But the champions will likely remain the same, as Carleton will return the majority of their roster next season. Dave Smart’s crew is the early CIS favourite for 2013-14.