Basketball Universities

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Carleton Ravens men’s basketball team waits for invite to 19th-straight nationals

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By Martin Cleary

The Carleton University Ravens men’s basketball team is expected to return to the Canadian university national championships next month.

If it happens, it certainly won’t be by the traditional routes they’ve followed in past years.

They won’t be going as the OUA champion or the runner-up as the Ravens lost those two options Wednesday night, when they dropped their first conference game of the season 86-80 to Queen’s University Gaels at home in the East Division final.

Playing in the OUA final had become almost a gimme under former head coach Dave Smart and current head coach Taffe Charles. Carleton had been a part of the past 16 Wilson Cup finals, winning a dozen titles beginning in 2003.

The OUA finalists are guaranteed a berth in the eight-team U Sports nationals. The only way Carleton can now enter its 19th consecutive national university championship and the 24th in its program history, dating back to 1965, is if it’s selected as the At-Large school.

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A U Sports committee will look at seven universities (Carleton, McGill, British Columbia, Ottawa Gee-Gees, Regina, McMaster and Prince Edward Island) and rank them against the five criteria – regular-season conference record, strength of schedule, average of weekly ranking, playoff performance, and records against other teams under berth consideration and teams that have qualified for the championship.

According to an analysis on each of the five criteria elements on the authoritative U Sports Hoops website by Martin Timmerman, Carleton is ranked No. 1 in each category and should be named as the At-Large team for the national championship April 1-3 in Edmonton.

If Carleton is selected, expect the Ravens to be seeded in the second half of the field, which will make winning its 16th national title that much more difficult in the single-elimination tournament.

Earlier this month, Carleton wrapped up its 11th undefeated regular season by winning back-to-back games against Queen’s, 86-46 in Kingston and 94-75 at the Ravens Nest. Carleton finished at 14-0.

But the OUA East Division final was a totally different game for the Ravens, featuring six lead changes and nine ties.

“They (Queen’s) played like they wanted to win. We played like we didn’t want to win,” said a dejected Carleton head coach Taffe Charles. “They deserved it. They played as a group. We didn’t play as a group.”

Brothers Cole and Luka Syllas accounted for almost 60 per cent of the Queen’s offence as they scored 39 and 12 points respectively. Quinto Gray added 16 points. Cole had the game’s only double-double, adding 10 rebounds.

Lloyd Pandi and Alain Louis paced Carleton with 25 points apiece and they combined for 13 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

Meanwhile, the Ravens women’s basketball team also lost its East Division final in Toronto by a score of 62-47 to the unbeaten Ryerson Rams. The 10-4 Carleton women also are being considered for the At-Large berth to their nationals March 31 to April 3 in Kingston, but they are an underdog for that role.

The Ravens played even with the Rams in the second and third quarters as they each combined to score 33 points. But the Rams dominated the first and fourth quarters 11-6 and 18-8 respectively as the Ravens only shot 17.4 per cent from the field.

Kali Pocrnic sparked the Ravens with 19 points and four steals, while Tatyanna Burke counted 10 points, eight rebounds, and three steals.

Despite the East Division championship losses and sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear about any playoff advancement, Carleton players were prominent when the OUA announced its regular-season-ending awards. Despite having strong regular seasons, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s and men’s teams had short playoff runs, but also were featured in the award presentations.


Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• East Division most valuable player
• Joy Bellinger Award winner for leadership on and off the court and academics
• East Division first-team all-star
• third in OUA scoring at 16.4 points a game, fifth in rebounds at 9.7 a game, during the season reached 1,000-point and 500-rebound milestones, second in Gee-Gees’ career points at 1,103 and third in career rebounds at 575.
• a four-time Academic All-Canadian, graduated Summa Cum Laude with an honours bachelor of science degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in psychology, founding member of the Black Student-Athletes Advocacy Council at the university and spearheaded a fundraiser ($3,200) and awareness campaign for Black Lives Matter.

Tatyanna Burke
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division defensive player of the year (seventh Gee-Gee player to earn the award after recent winners Elizabeth Leblanc and Nicole Gilmore)
• East Division second team all-star
• fourth in OUA rebounds at 9.4 a game, sixth in blocks at 1.3 a game and had five of her 25 steals in a February game against Laurentian.

Kali Pocrnic
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division first team all-star
• seventh in OUA scoring at 14.6 points a game and third in conference assists with 53.

Natsuki Szczokin
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• East Division second team all-star
• second in the OUA with 4.1 assists a game, led Gee-Gees in team minutes at 29.9 a game, steals at 1.9 a game and assists, and was second in scoring at 8.9 points a game.

Teresa Donato
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division all-rookie team, 18 assists, 10 steals and 4.5 assists a game in 13 conference games.

Nadine Katumbayi
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• East Division all-rookie team, No. 3 in Gee-Gees scoring at 7.2 points a game and second in assists at 2.2 a game.


Lloyd Pandi
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division most valuable player (after winning the OUA and U Sports rookie of the year awards in 2019-20)
• East Division first team all-star
• top-10 showings in field-goal percentage at 54.7, free-throw percentage at 83.3, defensive rebounds at 84 and overall rebounds at 114.

Taffe Charles
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division coach of the year
• with only four fourth-year players, the Ravens led the OUA in shooting and rebounding, his first undefeated men’s regular season at 14-0, won the same award in his first season coaching the Ravens men’s team in 2019-20.

Willy Manigat
Brock University Badgers
• West Division coach of the year
• former player for the University of Ottawa (two years) and Carleton University (three years) led the Badgers to a 14-1 season with the program’s best regular-season winning percentage of .933
• third-year Badgers’ coach also watched his players allow the fewest points in their division at 74 a game.

Maxime Boursiquot
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• East Division defensive player of the year
• East Division second team all-star
• quick on the court with good vision, sixth in OUA steals at 2.1 a game, averaged 5.3 rebounds a game.

Guillaume Pépin
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• East Division first team all-star
• tied for OUA lead in game starts at 16, fourth in free throws made at 84 out of 112 attempts, averaged 5.1 rebounds a game.

Binian Ghebrekidan
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division first team all-star
• third in OUA field-goal percentage at 60.2.

Alain Louis
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division second team all-star
• averaged 11.1 points a game, 4.5 assists a game and was third in the OUA in assists to turnover ratio at 2.8.

Quincy Louis-Jeune
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• East Division all-rookie team
• averaged 11.1 points a game in 10 games as well as 3.6 rebounds a game.

Cole Newton
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• East Division all-rookie team
• played in all 16 games and averaged 8.2 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.

Wazir Latiff
Carleton University Ravens
• East Division all-rookie team
• played in 11 games, averaged 3.9 points and 1.2 assists a game, scored 14 points in his second career game for the Ravens against Nipissing.

Ali Sow
Wilfrid Laurier University Lancers player from Ottawa
• West Division first team all-star
• first in OUA in total points at 407, second in OUA scoring averaging 25.4 points a game, minutes at 37.4 a game, field goals made at 135 out of 312 attempts and assists at 84.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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