UTMAC created great anticipation for this game, pitting UTM Division One Blue against UTM Division One White. Fans knew that the game was going to be a big one from the energy and the conclusions of their games last week. There was some hostility between the teams; they both badly wanted to win this game.
The crowd filed onto the bleachers at the RAWC; it was by far the best attendance of any home game for any UTM team this year. Students, friends, and family members came to cheer their teams to victory.
Both teams huddled up before the opening tip-off for the coaches to give their final instructions to their players. UTM Blue won the tip-off when Faiz Ahmed outjumped Jeff Thorpe. Both teams were a bit nervous at first; they both missed their opening shots. After this, Blue took over the game. Jonathan Harvey knocked down a pull-up three-pointer and hit three more right after that, which made both the crowd and their bench ecstatic. Blue turned up the intensity of their defence and didn’t allow White to score any easy baskets, leading White’s coach, Juan Nunez, to call an early timeout with the score at 18–6.
After the timeout, not much had changed for White’s offence. Similarly, they have been struggling to run plays and put up points for most of the season.
Both teams had a sound defence; neither team allowed the other any easy baskets, and they kept close to their opponents on defence. But the Blue Eagles were simply outhustling the White Eagles on almost every play. This showed after a missed shot by Blue’s Terrell Subban: not only was Jordan Nazarene first to the rebound, he then got it back up into the hoop for an and-one.
Nunez went to his bench for solutions. His team showed some life when team leader Zakariya Khan drove hard to the rim while fouled, and got the layup to fall for a three-point play to make it 32–22 for Blue. This got the crowd cheering and seemed to put some energy into their legs, since after this they went on a six-point streak fuelled by good defence and by point guard Juan Ariado pushing the ball up the court for easy baskets.
With less than two minutes left in the first half, the score was 32–28. The Blue bench took over and limited White to only two more points before the end of the quarter. Blue guards Joseph Adamu and Terrell Subban turned up the offence, and the latter hit a fadeaway to end the half. Blue went into half-time with all the momentum and a lead of 40–30. During the half-time show by the UTM dance team, Nunez took his team into the locker room.
The second half started the same way the first half ended, with both teams playing a tough defence and driving hard to the rim. Blue forward Jordan Nazarene picked up a defensive rebound, drove down the middle of the court and straight to the rim, and finished with a smooth layup. Meanwhile, White was not getting much production from their starters. They played very well on defence, but couldn’t get going on offence. Their shots weren’t falling, and Blue’s defence only seemed to be getting better. Nunez decided to take out four of his starters at once and brought on four bench players with 7:56 left in the second half in an attempt to spark his team into action. Zakariyah Khan—the top scorer of the game with 29 points—was White’s only bright spot the whole game. The jumpers from the other White Eagles were ice-cold.
Joseph Adamu made a play with 3:55 left on the clock that effectively ended the game. He jumped up to get a rebound and put it back in, getting fouled at the same time. This got the crowd roaring and put the score at 67–53. Blue’s defence was slacking as the game came to a close, but now White’s jumpers started falling. With under a minute left in the game as Blue ran down the clock, Nazarene found himself under the rim alone and finished with a two-handed dunk that put an exclamation mark on the whole game.
After the game, both teams shook hands and all the Blue Eagles huddled up in the middle of the court to celebrate their victory. The final score was 73–60. The White Eagles didn’t stay long after the game.
“We came out with a lot of energy and a lot of poise. Jonathan was hot and he got us rolling early,” said Blue’s coach, Anish Bhalla. “Everyone on the team stepped up, and there was good team play overall.”
Joseph Adamu, a Blue bench player who finished with 10 points, said, “It was a bit nerve-racking at first. Once the whole team got in, the energy level rose. The team chemistry was excellent, and there was great play from both the bench players and the starters.”
“All week we’ve been motivated for this game. There was a lot of competitiveness before the game,” said Harvey, whose score of 15 points was the highest on his team. “I started out the game well, knocking down my first four three-pointers. The winner of this game gets to represent UTM at the tournament on Friday, so I wasn’t trying to lose this game.”
Team White played one of their best defensive games this season, but once again, their offence didn’t hold up. They were simply outhustled and outclassed.