UTM Varsity men’s basketball program found themselves in the semifinals tilt against University of Toronto’s Woodsworth College. What seemed like a blowout victory for the Eagles turned into a close affair near the final moments. Woodsworth’s lack of composure and selfish play gave UTM the opportunity to come out on top and win 76-67.
In the first quarter, plenty of shots fell within the first few minutes, but in the last eight minutes, quite a few missed shots and opportunities began to frustrate both benches.
Greg Roberts put the momentum in the Eagles’ favour with an off-balance layup and foul attempt score. Nicholas Al-Rehay manoeuvered himself around Woodsworth defenders from a long court pass, and scored. On a possession later, Nicholas Kwahtal capitalized on his wide open three-point shot and put the Eagles up 25-13 with 8:20 left in the half. Ahmad Abu Awad got into the scoring mix, capitalizing on a two-point opportunity where he rushed into the paint and trickled the shot high overtop the heads of Woodsworth defenders. Kwahtal dazzled the crowd with a spin move around a Woodsworth defender and humbly gave the ball to fellow teammate Roberts on a 3-on-0 rush to score for his team—leading 14 points. UTM continued to out-shoot, out-hustle, and out-strategize Woodsworth for the rest of the entire half, which ended in UTM leading 44-24 prior to the second half.
Alessandro Tanzi lit the torch in the third quarter, scoring eight straight points for the Eagles; he sunk an open layup and two three-point shots. Woodsworth fought their way back into the game, winning fierce battles in front of the net and capitalizing off their dominant rebounding. At the end of the third quarter, UTM led by only six points after leading by 26 points at the beginning of the half —they had an interesting final stretch ahead.
The fourth quarter began where the third quarter ended, with the momentum on Woodsworth’s side; but the UTM defense prevailed, disallowing Woodsworth the opportunity to even up the score. Aiden Bull for Woodsworth was the three-point assassin that continuously gave Woodsworth something to be excited about. He made his money behind the arch next to his bench. Tanzi’s air ball didn’t manage to go out of bounds, and as the Woodsworth defender stared at it, Tanzi sprinted, flew out of bounds, and knocked the ball off the defender to secure the improbable next possession for his Eagles.
UTM secured the win, and now go on to play Scarborough in the championship match this Wednesday, March 15 at UTSC.
UTM’s head coach was pleased with his team’s overall performance, but understands there is still some work that needs to be done. The 24-point lead dwindling down to six wasn’t something the team wants to carry over into their championship game. “There were barely any mistakes in the first half; everyone was clicking, and the shots were going down, and I think it showed in the score. And in the second half, it was expected that Woodsworth was going to come out strong and we came out a little flat, so they made a run,” he says. “I told the guys I’m proud of the way they reacted to their run. We held our composure, and we just handled business.
“This would make it three championships out of the last four years, so hopefully we can finish it off before we go into Varsity next year.”