On an energetic night at the Goldring Centre, the Varsity Blues men’s basketball team defeated the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks 59–54 on February 24. As a result of their victory, the Blues have advanced to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinals for the first time since the 1996–1997 season. 

Because the Blues finished at the top of the OUA central division with a 14–8 record, they were able to host a playoff men’s basketball game for the first time since the 2016–2017 season. 

“Just playing at home [whether] it’s playoffs or not… our guys [always] look forward to it, just because we get so many fans [and] so much support,” head coach Madhav Trivedi told The Varsity in a post-game interview. 

Meanwhile, the Ridgebacks have had a historic “Cinderella” season, having qualified for the playoffs for the first time in the history of their basketball program. Yet, the Blues weren’t going to underestimate them. “[They’re] in the playoffs [for the] first time, but they’re [still] a top 10 team,” Trivedi said. 

Overall, the quarterfinal game was tight, with both teams battling back and forth — though ultimately, the Blues emerged victorious. 

What happened

While the Ridgebacks got the first bucket of the game — a three from guard Levi Ogbonna — the Blues were the team that came out of the gates swinging, as guard Callum Baker scored the Blues’ first six points of the game. Notably, Baker led the OUA in points per game and total points during the regular season. His step-back three-pointer would soon give the Blues an early six-point lead, and despite some pushback, the Blues maintained their lead until the end of the quarter, ending 23–16. 

When the game resumed, both teams were locked in defensively. Nevertheless, guard Nadav Sahar nailed a three-pointer to get the Blues’ first points of the second quarter, and the Blues’ offense started clicking. Forward Somachi Agbapu bounced the ball into a driving Baker who easily laid the ball in for two points. 

Immediately on the other end, Agbapu had a monster block, leading to a layup from sophomore guard Noah Ngamba. Sahar drilled a two-point jumper and forward Anthony Daudu drove to the basket to increase the lead further. 

The Blues went to the free-throw line multiple times during the game. KUNAL DADLANI/THE VARSITY

The Blues maintained their lead, and as their lockdown defense forced a turnover from the Ridgebacks, the Blues ended the first half on a high, with the score at 38–29 in their favour. 

Yet, the Ridgebacks tightened their defense to start the second half, and the Blues’ offense, which was thriving in the first half, was now struggling. The Ridgebacks began chipping away at the Blues’ lead, scoring six unanswered points, and the Ridgebacks soon tied the game at 39–39. While big blocks from Ngamba and Agbapu kept the game level, the Ridgebacks would soon earn their first lead since the early minutes of the first quarter. 

The Blues went to the free-throw line multiple times during the game. KUNAL DADLANI/THE VARSITY

From here on, the game was a battle. Guard Dane Quest tied the game up again with the Blues’ first successful field goal of the second half, but the Ridgebacks would soon take a three-point lead after guard Keon Baker stole the ball from Quest and scored a fastbreak layup. 

Regardless, sophomore forward Ryan Rudnick, having just been subbed into the game, made a three-pointer to tie the game 45–45. The Blues ended the third quarter with the lead, Sahar having scored two late free-throws to make the score 47–45. 

In the fourth quarter, Baker scored to give the Blues a four-point lead, but back-to-back buckets from the Ridgebacks tied the game up at 49–49. Yet, two reckless turnovers from the Ridgebacks — a half-court violation and an inbound violation — eased some of the pressure on the Blues, and Rudnick drilled his second three-pointer of the night to restore the Blues’ lead. Soon after, Rudnick grabbed an offensive rebound and scored again to increase the Blues lead to 54–49. 

The Ridgebacks fought back and tied the game again at 54–54. After Quest restored the Blues’ two-point lead, Ngamba drove into the paint and splashed a two-point, fadeaway jump shot. This shot gave the Blues a four-point lead with only 10 seconds left, effectively sealing the Blues’ victory. 

What’s next 

The Blues will now travel to Kingston to play in a semifinal game against the number-one-seeded Queen’s Golden Gaels on February 28 at 8:00 pm. 

“We’re playing the best team in the country,” Trivedi said. “It’s another challenge to play a top ten team on the road… [but] our guys will be hyper.”

During the regular season, the Blues had played and lost a nail-biting game against the Gaels 96–91 on January 20. The Blues hope to upset the Gaels and aim to advance to the Wilson Cup final for the first time since the 1995–1996 season.