This past Sunday, January 28, the UTM men’s and women’s varsity basketball teams played back-to-back games in Gym A/B. UTM teamed up with Bell, as the theme of the games were centred on the #BellLetsTalk initiative. When fans walked into the gym, they were able to write a message in a bubble that was posted on the entrance wall. Above the wall it read, “#StartTheConversation.” There was a white board where fans were allowed to write a response to the question, “What does mental health mean to you?” In addition, there was an opportunity to take home a blue #BellLetsTalk hat and a set of noise makers that fans could clap together during the game.

This was a back-to-back weekend for both UTM teams, as they played the Sault College Cougars the day before. The women played first, and from the start of the game, they came out hungry for a win. UTM won against Sault College the previous day and were looking to make it a 6-point weekend.

About a minute into the game, the Cougars scored a 2-pointer, making their mark on the scoreboard first. UTM’s Jade Addai, was getting many opportunities to score for her team but could not seem to find the basket. Addai and teammate, Adesola Adesina, countered the Cougar defense, which resulted in them evening out the score at 2-2. Following this was the first of many 3-pointers from UTM’s, Victoria Silva. UTM continued to play well, but was still running into the same issue of not being able to sink baskets. Fortunately, their defense was playing exceptionally well as they prevented many Cougar baskets from going in. The Cougars’ star player, Mercedes Ryan, made a great play by dribbling across the court and ending off with a basket. Soon after this, UTM began breaking down and gave up another two points to the Cougars. UTM was down for the first time in the game, with the score at 6-5.

With four minutes left in the quarter, UTM’s Jiana Alnajjar scored a layup and put her team back on top. This was followed by a classic Silva 3-pointer, putting UTM now ahead by four. The Eagles had great movement throughout all ends of the court, resulting in them leading 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter started off slow. For the first three minutes, no baskets were sunk despite the ample amount of opportunities from both sides. Sault College’s Alexandra Cooper was first to break the streak with a 2-pointer. Adesina was quick to put an end to this by allowing UTM to lead by five once again. There were several baskets sunk by both teams, but it was UTM who widened the points gap. UTM’s Priyanka Mehla scored a 3-pointer which was then followed by two more successful 3-pointers from Silva. With six seconds left, the Cougars scored a basket, ending the half at 28-17 for UTM.

UTM came out hard in the third quarter and were working well as a unit in both the attacking and defensive ends. UTM was rigorous at covering Ryan, while also successfully stealing the ball from their opponents. UTM got their first foul of the game when Alnajjar stepped up to the line. She sunk her second basket, making the score a 14-point difference at 33-19. Shortly after this, UTM fouled the Cougars once again, where they sunk both baskets, giving them two more points. UTM kept their composure and stayed solid throughout the half. The Cougars began pressuring UTM in the defensive end, which ultimately lead to UTM fouling with about two minutes to go in the half. Fortunately for UTM, the Cougars player missed both free throws. UTM quickly countered after this and Adesina scored a much-needed basket, making it 39-28 for UTM. With the score gap closing, UTM worked hard to keep their lead. They succeeded, and the quarter ended 42-32.

In the final quarter of the game, UTM was looking to keep their lead and successfully take three points from the game. About a minute-and-a-half into the quarter, a Cougars player knocked down Addai as she was taking a 3-point shot. Of course, Addai successfully made her 3-pointer and was also awarded a free throw shot. The score now rested at 50-34 for UTM. The women maintained their lead, allowing minimal successful baskets for the Cougars, while also scoring their own. Six minutes remained in the game, and Addai was said to have intentionally knocked down Ryan, resulting in Sault College being awarded two free throws. Ryan luckily only scored one, and UTM was quick to counter this, scoring another 2-pointer. The score remained 52-37. An unfortunate play lead star player, Ryan, to leave the game with an injury to her back.

Silva gets yet another 3-pointer, marking this her fifth of the game. Only three and a half minutes remained in the game and the Eagles were leading by a whopping eighteen points. There was a lot of back and forth play between the Eagles and Cougars for about a minute and a half, but neither team could sink a basket. With thirty seconds left, Cougars’, Cassidy Sabourn, scored a layup. UTM still triumphed as the score ended at 55-41.

Following the women’s game was the UTM men’s basketball game where they also played the Sault College Cougars. Sault College came out strong and clearly wanted revenge on UTM for beating them the day before. UTM was quick to match this and followed closely behind at 5-4 only two minutes into the game. UTM’s lead scorer, Zamam Khan, was doing well to maintain his title while also creating opportunities for his teammates. UTM pulled ahead by one about four and half minutes into the game but the Cougars were quick to counter putting them ahead at 9-8. Following this Cougars player, Modou Ceesay, stole the ball and scored a slam dunk. The UTM men needed to step up their game if they wanted to successfully match Sault College.

Halfway through the quarter, the score was already 14-11 for the Cougars. UTM was doing well to catch any rebounds from missed baskets, but could not seem to find the net. The score now remained 16-13 for the Cougars, until a foul allowed UTM two free throw shots. UTM’s John Filaber stepped up to the line and successfully made both baskets. Seeing as the score was now only a one-point difference, UTM used this as motivation to keep pressing. Unfortunately, the Cougars did well to maintain their lead and were relentless in the offensive end. With a minute-and-a-half left, Sault College lead by five points with the score 22-17. Khan scored the next four points, putting his team back in the game. Unfortunately, the Cougars were too solid of a team and UTM fell 27-21 at the end of the first quarter.

It was a no-point quarter for the first minute-and-a-half of the second quarter. UTM’s Brent Carey was allotted two free throws, where he sunk both with ease. A UTM 4-on-1 resulted in UTM player Jonathan Kasongo scoring a layup and narrowing the score 27-25. UTM came into this quarter with a hunger to take the lead. Just over three minutes into the quarter, Sault College gets their first basket. UTM was now behind by four but was quick to score back-to-back layups, and evened out the score at 29-29. It was any man’s game now. UTM’s Nicholas Al-Rehany put UTM ahead for the first time in the game but the Cougars were quick to even it up. Filaber was getting several opportunities to sink layups but was incredibly unlucky with his shots.

With five minutes left to go, the score lay at 31-31. Kasongo was awarded two free throws once again, where he sunk one basket. This still put UTM ahead by one. Following this, UTM player Nicholas Kwantwi was given two free throws where he successfully scored both. UTM was now on fire and scored another four points barely five seconds apart. The score now 38-31. The Eagles exploited this by maintaining their lead and scoring another three points, making the score now 41-31. The Cougars managed to get a two-pointer, but the score was quickly brought back to a 10-point difference after Al-Rehany’s two successful free throws. Sault College began closing up the score by making it 43-40. The half ended 45-40, with UTM leading by five points.

During the halftime break, UTM Athletics organized a fan photo holding the #BellLetsTalk banner. The banner was signed by several UTM students and athletes, and the photo only reinforced UTM’s support in raising awareness for mental health.

Both teams came out strong in the third quarter but the Cougars were first to put their name on the scoreboard, with two free throw shots that were both successful. Khan was playing an outstanding game where he got four points to put UTM ahead by seven. The score was now 49-42 for UTM. There was a lot of back and forth play between both teams, with opportunities being missed by both sides. A beautiful play by Al-Rehany and Khan resulted in an extra two points for UTM. The two teammates attacked the Cougars defense with speed and did a series of three passes before Al-Rehany found the basket. Following this was another two points given to UTM’s Nicholas Kwantwi after he scored both his free throws. UTM was leading by 11 and was not showing any sign of backing down.

With two minutes left in the quarter, UTM lead 60-48. This score has already surpassed the final score of the women’s game. With both teams scoring baskets, the final score of the quarter was 62-53.

The final quarter of the game was filled with angst from both fans and players. The Eagles were leading by a substantial amount, but due to the nature of sports, anything can happen. UTM was fighting hard to take away three points, but the Cougars were fighting just a little harder as they narrowed the difference to be only three points. However, both Khan and Al-Rehany put an end to this as they racked up a total of five points very quickly. The score read 67-59 for UTM. Seven minutes into the game, both Kasongo and Khan got four points for their team.

Roughly halfway through the quarter, the Cougars began pressing and countering UTM. Despite this rise in pressure, UTM kept their composure and did not allow themselves to be broken down. With only four minutes left to go, it was crucial that UTM maintain their style of play. Sault College’s Nate Kwofie was awarded two free throws where he sunk both. An honourable mention should be made to Kwofie as he posed a real threat to UTM.

Only three minutes remained in the game and Al-Rehany scored yet another basket, putting his team ahead 78-67. Immediately after this, Khan stepped up to the free throw line to score another two baskets. UTM was doing well to defend the strong Sault College attackers. With 20 seconds left in the game, an amazing play by Khan and Carey resulted in UTM making it to 90 points. The game ended 91-75 for UTM, marking this as the Eagles’ second win of the season.

It is difficult to point towards any one player on UTM that stood out, as they all played outstanding. However, Khan and Al-Rehany played exceptionally well and were key players in UTM, winning their second game of the season.

Both the UTM men’s and women’s basketball teams had a successful weekend as each team took away six points. There is clear talent and great chemistry among both teams.

These games were centred around the #BellLetsTalk initiative where UTM clearly displayed their support in mental health awareness.