The Varsity Blues basketball teams fell in both games of their doubleheader this past Saturday against the Ryerson University Rams.
In the women’s game, the Blues donned eye-catching custom pink threads for their 12th annual Think Pink matchup for breast cancer. The Rams lived up to their U SPORTS fifth ranking early, storming out of the gates on a 12–2 run. A three from Ellen Ougrinov and some timely free throws by first-year players Mikhaela Ekwandja and Jasmine Lambert cut the lead to five, with only a few minutes left before the teams would trade buckets the rest of the quarter. It was 23–14 for Ryerson after 10 minutes.
In the second quarter, the Blues showed some fight, reducing the deficit to a manageable six points with four minutes and 51 seconds left on the clock as Ekwandja finished a tough drive through traffic in the paint, making the score 27–21 for Ryerson. Ekwandja would finish with a team and new career-high of 12 points for the night. The Blues found solace in their rookies, as Ekwandja’s twin Nakiesha Ekwandja connected on a corner three-pointer with the shot clock winding down a few possessions later. Fellow rookie Lambert also drew iron from beyond the arc. The squad showed good moments, but ultimately the lead remained at 39–29 for Ryerson at the half-time.
The Rams extended their lead in the third quarter as the Blues struggled to find a consistent scoring flow. A Sarah Bennett lay-in with less than six minutes left to play — which completed a beautiful Blues press break — followed by an Ougrinov pull-up jumper kept the score to a manageable 49–36 about halfway through the quarter. The Rams continued to push, increasing their lead to 58–38, but not before Nakiesha found Sara Cumby on a nice backdoor cut with about two minutes left in the period.
The Rams continued to hit shots in the fourth period, and the final score was 84–53 for the visitors off the backs of a combined 42 points from Ryerson veterans Hayley Robertson and Marin Scotten. For the Blues, Sarah Bennett hit her fifth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Nada Radonjic was solid as usual with nine points and seven boards. Toronto got 24 points from its bench and 25 points from rookies.
The men’s game was a high-tempo affair and both teams looked hungry from the opening tip.
Each side had already hit double digits in scoring just minutes in, and were tied at 11–11 less than seven minutes after Chris Barrett and Evan Shadkami each connected from both the field and the charity stripe. The Blues’ run-and-gun game was matched by their aggressive zone press on defense, and the punishing pace saw Toronto use four bench players within the first five minutes alone. It was 20–16 for the visitors after one quarter.
The second frame was much the same, as both teams continued to score in flurries. The Rams slowly and quietly built their lead to as high as 12, fuelled by the efforts of floor general Tevaun Kokko, who put up a team-high of 31. Meanwhile for the Blues, Shadkami took his second charge — one of three on the evening — as he stepped up and disrupted a two-on-one transition play with a little over eight minutes to go.
Later on in the frame, Jeremy Aibi hit a putback lay-in with two minutes to play before a Marshall Reed three-pointer and a few more Shadkami foul shots made the score 45–38. This should have been the half-time score if not for the heroics of Kokko to end the frame, as he would hit a Hail Mary, and beat the buzzer from about 75 feet down the court. The score was 48–38 at half-time.
Both teams would trade buckets in the opening minutes of the third period before a three from Shadkami cut the deficit down to just six. Each squad continued to push and the Blues would also get three-point baskets in the frame from Barrett, Elie Mouyal, and Daniel Johansson. Ryerson maintained an 11-point lead at 76–65 heading into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, Jeremy Aibi opened the scoring for the Blues with a putback layup with a little over eight minutes remaining on the clock. Aibi was an absolute warrior for the home side, grabbing a game-high 13 boards — including an incredible eight offensive rebounds — in 30 minutes off the bench. Ryerson began to push and the Blues’ heartfelt earlier efforts fell in vain as the visitors outscored the Blues 18–8 in the fourth, taking the game with a final score of 94–73.
Shadkami posted a game-high of 35 points in 36 minutes, exploiting his unique ability to draw contact as he went 13–15 from the foul line. Barrett was the other Blue in double figures, with 12 points as Toronto shot 35 of their 70 field goal attempts from beyond the arc.