In a double-overtime thriller on February 28, the Varsity Blues men’s basketball team was defeated by the Queen’s Golden Gaels 95–90 in Kingston. In their first Ontario University Athletics (OUA) men’s basketball semi-final game since the 1996–1997 season, the Blues played against the top-seeded Gaels, who have been undefeated at home so far this season. 

What happened 

Blues guards Noah Ngamba and Dane Quest combined to score the first six points of the game, as the Blues started the game strong. Yet it was the Gaels who ended the quarter strong, as they reduced the Blues’ lead to just one point with just under a minute left. The quarter ended at 18–17 in the Blues’ favour. 

Within the first minute of the second quarter, a layup from Gaels guard Cameron Bett gave the Gaels their first lead of the game, now up 22–20. The rest of the quarter saw the Blues chase after the Gaels, trying to reduce the Gaels’ lead and at one point managing to tie the game up. As the Blues and Gaels continued trading buckets, a fastbreak dunk from Gaels forward Michael Kelvin gave the Gaels a two-point lead, ending the first half with them leading 40–38. 

The third quarter saw the Blues fight to tie the game and keep the Gaels’ lead small. Blues forward Somachi Agbapu shined early in the quarter, scoring back-to-back layups and splashing a free throw to tie the game at 45–45. A layup from Gaels guard Cole Syllas solidified a six-point lead for them with just under two minutes left in the quarter. Nevertheless, free throws from Quest and Blues guard Nadav Sahar along with a late three-pointer from Ngamba ensured that the third quarter ended with the game tied at 56–56. 

Just over a minute into the fourth quarter, a layup from Blues forward Anthony Daudu made the score 58–57 and gave the Blues their first lead since the first quarter. However, the Gaels responded to fill the fourth quarter with pressure and drama. 

With just under two minutes left, Gaels guard Luka Syllas hit a jumper to give the Gaels a three-point lead at 69–66. Yet, Syllas fouled Ngamba as he attempted a three-pointer, and Ngamba scored all of the three free throws he was awarded to tie the game at 69–69. Nevertheless, with just 23 seconds left in the game, Syllas seemingly redeemed himself by giving the Gaels a late two-point lead. 

However, in an incredibly nail-biting ending to the quarter, Ngamba drilled a jump shot at the buzzer to tie the game 71–71, and also got sent to the free-throw line with a chance to win the game for the Blues. Ultimately, his free throw bounced off the rim and the game was sent to overtime.

In overtime, the Blues and Gaels continued scoring, each team trading the lead. With just under thirty seconds left, a layup from Ngamba — his 30th point of the night — put the Blues in front, the score at 80–79. With 12 seconds left, Quest had the chance to extend the Blues’ lead at the free-throw line, but only scored one of his two free throws. With the Blues in front by two points, Syllas drove to the basket and tied the game up, forcing the game to go into double overtime. 

The Gaels started double-overtime strong and the Blues struggled to keep up. Nevertheless, the Blues continued fighting, after two free throws each from guard Callum Baker and Quest left the Blues trailing the Gaels 92–90 with only 33 seconds left in the game. In the end, the Blues couldn’t tie the game and the Gaels won the game, 95–90. 

What’s next

The Blues have now been eliminated from the OUA playoffs and will have to wait until March 3 to discover if they have qualified for the U SPORTS championship, set to be played in Quebec City. If the team has qualified, it will be their first appearance at the national championship level since the 1996–1997 season. 

Regardless, after what has been a great season for the Blues, there is much hope and excitement for the future of the team.