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Finally, the drought is over. Ryerson’s men’s basketball team has defeated the Carleton Ravens.
The dragon has been slayed, the demons exorcised. The schedule may have only listed it as a regular season game but to the players, coaching staff and fans who packed the Coca Cola Court on Jan. 22, it certainly felt like more than that.
Ryerson had not beaten Carleton in exactly 16 years, a streak of 33 games. Since Roy Rana became head coach of the Rams in 2009, the team had come close to beating the Ravens on only two occasions.
The first came two years ago in February at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, when an Adika Peter-McNeilly injury derailed what looked like a sure upset. Peter-McNeilly had been torching the Ravens with 26 points, including five three-pointers, when he went down with a leg injury and Carleton pulled away to clinch a 71-68 win.
The second came last year at the OUA Final Four in Ottawa. The Rams held a two-point advantage with just under five minutes left to play when the Scrubb brothers, Phil and Tommy, took over, scoring or assisting on all 13 of Carleton’s final points. The Ravens won 84-80 and would go on to win the CIS national championship, their 11th in 13 years, at the MAC last March. The Rams would not forget it.
“We had it posted in our lockers,” said Peter-McNeilly of the 16-year losing streak. “Every day we see it. It’s motivation. The last time Ryerson beat Carleton was in 2000. I don’t remember what I was doing in the year 2000 but I wanted to stop that trend.”
With the gym filled with screaming fans, the Rams were finally able to get that elusive win, outscoring the Ravens 79-61. For the first time in 33 games, Carleton could not keep up with Ryerson’s depth and athleticism. The Rams’ defence completely overwhelmed the Ravens, who were visibly frustrated and committed 20 turnovers in the game. Ryerson’s bench, sparked by third-year guard Ammanuel Diressa’s 21 points, outscored Carleton’s 48-16.
“We already knew going into this game that (our bench) had to play a good game,” said interim coach Patrick Tatham. “Not necessarily all scoring but they had to come in and give really good minutes and make shots. (Carleton) was going to load up on Adika and Aaron (Best) and you can see from the box score that they struggled tonight.”
It has not been a traditional rivalry (rivalries usually involve both teams trading wins with one another) and key members for both sides are gone. Both Rana and Carleton’s coach, Dave Smart, are on sabbatical, while Carleton’s Scrubb brothers and Ryerson’s Jahmal Jones, some of the best players to ever play for their respective programs, have taken their talents overseas.
Still, Carleton remained the one hurdle the Rams had yet to leap over, the one obstacle that had consistently blocked their path to a championship, over and over again. It may not have been a playoff game but the losing streak is behind them. The Rams now know that Carleton can be beaten.
“It feels good,” said Tatham. “It’s not (Carleton’s) team from last year but neither is our team. For us, it’s a great program win.”
This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Sept. 27, 2016.