UTM’s strongest squad had both an advantage and a disadvantage going into the semifinals: they were playing at home in front of an immense and roaring crowd, but they were facing Woodsworth, one of the top teams in Division 1.
The first half saw domination by White in one of their best games this season. Their offence was pouring shots both from within the paint and behind the three-point line. UTM White bagged three three-point shots, while Woodsworth managed none and even produced an air ball at one point. Woodworth’s attack was poorly coordinated, their defence was sloppy, and their on-court communication consisted of pointless shouting. UTM remain composed.
UTM White’s Justin Nguyen dribbled past his marker before setting up teammate Miguel Bediones, who nabbed yet another three-pointer.
The first-place team showed the home crowd why they’re in the finals with a 30-15 lead at halftime.
UTM and Woodsworth entered the second half almost the same way as the first. Woodsworth were getting increasingly frustrated, and their coach called for a full timeout to change his strategy. Kim Dae Kun, Woodsworth’s strongest player, was substituted into the game and suddenly, the White were the ones playing less in sync. Woodsworth focused more on one-to-one defence, which greatly limited UTM’s dominant passing scheme and led to more turnovers.
The Woodsworth team, entered the last 10 minutes set on winning the game. UTM’s coach Juan Nunez watched a nightmare play out from the sidelines as his team’s 15-point lead turned into a Woodsworth lead with only three minutes left. The UTM fans likely couldn’t bear it, but kept cheering their team on in the dying moments of the first half.
Finally, UTM’s Andrew Williams converted on the free throw attempts in the last three seconds of regulation time to make the score 49-49. The teams had to decide who moves on to the finals in overtime. UTM White regrouped on defence, blocking their opponent from collecting any points. Nguyen drew a technical foul in overtime, which the team took as motivation. Williams took matters into his own hands in the overtime quarter and led UTM to victory, beating Woodsworth and giving the team the hope of winning a Division 1 title for the first time in five years.
“The guys were too relaxed in the second half, but I always believed in them,” said Nunez. “I’m confident we can win the championship. The other semifinal [will be] between UTSC and Rotman Commerce, and we’ve beaten both of those teams this season.”
His team went undefeated throughout its 2013/14 campaign, but he refuses to let his team get complacent. “The past is the past. We may have beaten both of them, but whoever will win will go into this final with renewed confidence,” he said. “They know how we play and they will have just as much a shot at claiming the title as we now have. The main competitors, Woodsworth, are now out and there’s everything to play for.”
Man of the match: Andrew Williams (UTM White). The saviour for whom the White and their fans were waiting sprung up in the dying minutes of normal time. Williams kept his cool and slotted home his two vital free throws, which sent his teammates into overtime and allowed them to edge the opposition in the end. He also scored 16 points in the final tally. His courage and optimism truly made him the man of the night. Expect him to feature in the final.