Throughout the season we cheer for both Div. 1 basketball teams. This time, it was one or the other that would advance to the Division 1 semifinals: UTM Blue versus UTM White. The two teams met earlier in the season, and this time White looked to avenge the 20-point beating they took from Blue.
Fans lined the bleachers. The Eagle mascot paraded around the gym. No one knew who to cheer for. Members from both teams jokingly exchanged trash talk.
Jack Krist, the program coordinator at the Department of Physical Education, watched from the officials’ table. “This should’ve been the finals,” he said, shaking his head.
The teams met at centre court for the tipoff and wasted no time in scoring, with each nailing back-and-forth buckets. UTM Blue put the pressure on White’s defence early, forcing them to play outside. Good ball movement by UTM White led to open looks and fast breaks, including Julian Nieva’s dime passes under the basket on two consecutive possessions. Manpreet Gill’s offensive game exploded in the second half, in which he scored 19 of his 30 points. Alongside him, Zak Khan made big shots for a total of 18 points.
UTM Blue maximized on their size advantage, hitting Fedja Kuljanin for some power baskets in the post to finish with 17. Meanwhile, point guard and team captain Andre Woodroffe delivered as usual, achieving 30 points for the game.
The win was within reach for both teams, but UTM Blue held the lead and kept it until the final buzzer sounded.
Conflicted cheers filled the RAWC throughout the game, and again when it was over.
After the game, Faiz Ahmed of UTM Blue commented: “We already beat them in the regular season, so we just had to go out and play our game to get a similar result.”
On Tuesday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m., PHE will host UTM Blue at St. George for the semifinal game.