Amid picket lines, cancelled classes, and general strike confusion, UTM students came together on Wednesday night to support the Eagles on their quest to the finals. A large crowd welcomed both teams into the RAWC with a resounding cheer to set the atmosphere for the men’s basketball Division 1 semi-final. UTM came into the game with a 10-1 record, looking to extend their impressive run into the playoffs. UTSC entered as the fourth-seeded in the playoffs and were big underdogs with a 7-4 regular season record.
As the game began, it was clear that Scarborough had come to win the game, scoring two quick baskets to take an early 4-0 lead. UTM managed to pull one back, but UTSC was fighting hard and managed to build up a 13-6 lead, capped off with a three-pointer at the five-minute mark. But UTM soon shaped up and started to look like the team that had won the regular season, bringing the score to 11-22 and within three minutes to 17-22. The roaring crowd seemed to be a motivation, cheering UTM as they scored on the fast break, getting a steal and scoring within seconds to close the gap to just two points. After a three-pointer in the final minute of the first half UTM had completed an impressive comeback, tying at 33-33.
The teams returned to the court with renewed energy in the second half. After stealing the ball, UTM got the crowd pumped up again with an acrobatic rebound basket that gave them their first lead of the game at 35-33. The Eagles continued to dominate in an 8-2 run, bringing the lead to 47-38. The crowd didn’t stop cheering when UTM came out of the timeout with a quick basket to keep the pressure on.
The Eagles confidently handled the ball with ease and defended with a high press. Despite this, Scarborough managed to bring several baskets back to lower UTM’s lead to just 53-45. This gave UTSC hope again, and they went on a seven-point streak to tie again at 55-55. The game was suddenly very close, the teams going basket for basket. With five minutes left in the game, the Eagles had to call a timeout to preserve their 62-59 lead. The tension was palpable when the teams retook the court, the pace of the game having slowed considerably.
The Eagles managed to get a basket, but UTSC responded right away to keep the game close at 64-62. With a minute left in the game, Scarborough was beginning to look desperate, and their all-out attack left them open at the back. UTM took advantage with a fast break to bring the lead to 66-62. With the time running out, the Eagles’ defence regained their confidence and held strong, and with seconds remaining, UTM topped it off with a last basket and foul to end the game 69-62.
The UTM crowd, who have been faithfully supporting the men’s basketball team all season, were elated for a final UTM will be playing in for the second year in a row.
“It’s awesome to see them make it to the final,” said Mollie Johnson, a first-year fan. “They’ve been putting in work all season and it’s really paying off. It’s great being able to cheer for a team like that.”
The Division 1 final takes place on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in the RAWC gym.