Mountaineers hope to ride Colts to a medal

OTTAWA – It will be Mohawk against Centennial and Sheridan versus Georgian when the 2012 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship begins Thursday (March 1) running through Saturday.

Eight teams will vie for the OCAA title at Algonquin College in Ottawa, including the host Thunder and three-time defending champion Humber Hawks.

Twelve games will be played during the three days as the OCAA introduces a new “backdoor” bronze medal format, similar to its volleyball championships. The OCAA quarter-finals will take place on Thursday afternoon beginning at 1 p.m. Losing teams will compete in the bronze medal quarter-finals on Friday, followed by the semi-final games. The bronze medal semi-finals and final will take place on Saturday leading to the gold medal game.

Fans unable to attend the games can follow the proceedings via webcast. Visit the championship website for further information.

The OCAA champion advances to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national title, taking place in Truro, Nova Scotia, March 15-17.

Here is a look at the OCAA quarter-final match-ups:

Georgian (12-8, 3rd East) vs. Sheridan (14-4, 2nd West)
Thursday – 1 p.m.

Sheridan enters the OCAA tournament on a high, having won five straight to end regular season play. Sheridan’s Khalid Abdel-Gabar (Mississauga) scored more three-pointers than any other OCAA player during the regular season, hitting on 64-of-155 shots from beyond the arc, a success rate of 41.3 percent. The third-year guard averaged 20.4 points per game with a team-high 367 points in 18 contests.

Georgian is also on a hot streak, having won three straight, including a 79-66 home win over Niagara in the OCAA qualifying round. Shane Rowe (Barrie) earned an impressive double-double in the victory with 16 points and 18 rebounds. The second-year forward was one of just two OCAA players to surpass 200 rebounds during the regular season, contributing 205 boards to go along with his 22.6 points per game average.

Georgian completed its best regular season since going 13-5 in 2004-05. The Grizzlies have never earned an OCAA medal in men’s basketball.

Sheridan looks to improve on its silver medal finish of a season ago. The Bruins last won the OCAA championship in 2008 and Sheridan is currently ranked No. 6 in Canada.

The winner of this quarter-final plays the winner of the Mohawk-Centennial match.

Mohawk (13-5, 4th West) vs. Centennial (18-2, 1st East)
Thursday – 3 p.m.

Centennial dominated play in the OCAA East region this season, with its only losses coming against Algonquin. The Colts are currently on a three-game win streak, and are ranked No. 11 in the nation.

Centennial first-year guard Natiel McKenzie (Scarborough, Ont.) was one of the top defenders in OCAA during the regular season, earning a league-high 64 steals. Fellow first-year teammate Theon Reefer (Montreal) is averaging 19.5 points per game.

Mohawk topped the OCAA in total points scored during the regular season. Mohawk fifth-year guard Aminu Bello (Hamilton) led all OCAA players with 440 points. Many of those points were likely fed by fourth-year teammate Manny Campbell (Burlington), who led the OCAA with 82 assists. Defensively, Mohawk second-year centre Taylor Dowhaniuk (Dundas) topped the OCAA with 45 blocks. Mohawk defeated Durham 90-65 at home in the qualifying round.

Both teams have had prolonged OCAA medal droughts in recent times. Centennial’s last medal came in 2005 when the Colts earned silver. Mohawk has not earned a medal since 1999 when the Mountaineers took home bronze.

The winner of this quarter-final plays the winner of the Georgian-Sheridan match.

Fanshawe (12-6, 5th West) vs. Humber (15-3, 1st West)
Thursday, March 1 – 6 p.m.

West region rivals hook up for the third time this season, with an OCAA semi-final berth at stake.

Humber had a 14 game-win streak snapped in its regular season finale, an 87-86 loss at Mohawk. Of its three losses, each came against teams appearing at the OCAA tournament, including Sheridan and Fanshawe. Fourth-year forward Akeem Sween (Mississauga) was the Humber leader with 274 points and 102 rebounds during the regular season. Humber is ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Fanshawe has peaked at the right time, having won four straight, including an 87-46 road win over St. Lawrence-Kingston in the OCAA qualifying round. Second-year guard Boyd Vassell (Kitchener) is Fanshawe’s key offensive cog, leading the Falcons with 327 points and 73 assists during the regular season.

Both teams split their season series, with each club winning at home. Fanshawe won 63-56 in early November, while Humber responded with a 75-73 win in early January. These teams met in the semi-final of last year’s tournament, with Humber winning 62-57 en route to a third straight OCAA title. Fanshawe has earned three OCAA medals in the past four years, including one silver and two bronze.

The winner of this quarter-final plays the winner of the Algoma-Algonquin match.

Algoma (13-5, 3rd West) vs. Algonquin (16-4, 2nd East)
Thursday, March 1 – 8 p.m.

Algoma will be the first team that puts Algonquin’s 9-1 home record to the test, having traveled the most kilometres to get there.

Algoma’s Jovain Wilson (Pickering) was one of just two OCAA players to surpass 400 points during regular season play, earning 404. The fourth-year guard was also second in the league in total three-pointers, shooting 59-of-143 beyond the arc, a success rate of 41.3 percent. He scored 24 points in Algoma’s 74-69 home win over George Brown in the OCAA qualifying round.

Second-year guard Romaine Lawrence (Toronto) led Algonquin with 312 points and 43 steals in 19 regular season games. Algonquin had its six-game win streak snapped by Georgian in its regular season finale.

Algoma and Algonquin were silver medalists in the 2008 and 2009 OCAA tournaments, respectively.

The winner of this quarter-final plays the winner of the Fanshawe-Humber match.