Ravens falter

87-game streak finally broken

Gaels men’s basketball team “just a few breaks away” from a win last week against McMaster.
Gaels men’s basketball team “just a few breaks away” from a win last week against McMaster.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo / Lukasz Rygielski

A good winning streak is one of those things that is never really appreciated until it’s over. For a while, it’s the only thing anyone can talk about.

Before long, the initial buzz has worn off. Victories continue to pile up, championships are won, and fans become wary of discussing the streak too openly—like not talking to a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter for fear of jinxing him.

Eventually, the streak takes on a life of its own. It reaches a point where observers take the next win for granted and the continuation of the streak is almost an afterthought. In December 2002 Carleton Ravens fans began to buzz with excitement as their men’s basketball team won their seventh straight game. In January 2006 the Ravens extended their incredible winning streak to 87 games, and the once-buzzing excitement seemed to have worn off.

But like all streaks, the Ravens’ had to come to an end. That’s precisely what occurred Saturday in St. Catharines when the Brock Badgers men’s basketball team defeated the Carleton Ravens 69-67, ending a record 87-game tear which spanned three seasons and included three consecutive CIS championships.

So, for three seasons, the Carleton Ravens were so good that, even on off nights, they were able to triumph time and again. Factor in the role of injuries and players graduating, and you’re left with an absurdly consistent and well-coached basketball program, to the credit of head coach Dave Smart and his players.

And just as one winning streak ends, another begins. Indeed, the Queen’s women’s team opened 2006 with back-to-back victories over Lakehead and McMaster, starting a streak of their own.

The Friday night Lakehead game was won in typical comeback fashion by the Gaels, who found themselves down 32-25 after a lacksadaisical first half. Queen’s rallied in the second half behind 24 points from team captain Claire Meadows. With six minutes to go, the Gaels finally took the lead, breaking the proverbial backs of an overmatched Lakehead team.

One night later, the Gaels continued their winning ways against the fourth-ranked team in Canada, the McMaster Marauders, who entered the game as the only undefeated OUA team. But, as they’ve done all season, Queen’s rose to the occasion—adding a “1” to the loss column of Mac’s 11-0 record.

Despite their best efforts, Queen’s went to the locker room down 28-27. Through the third quarter, the Gaels simply hung around long enough to give themselves a chance, as underdogs often do. The final 10 minutes saw tremendous defensive toughness from Queen’s and timely scoring from Jaime Dale, who finished with 15 points.

The 58-52 upset improves Queen’s record to 7-4 and, more importantly, gives the team great confidence as they hit the road for eight of their next 10 games.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s men’s team continued to show signs of improvement in games against Lakehead and McMaster. Brendan O’Leary led four Queen’s scorers who scored in double figures with a career-high 21 points in Friday’s 85-67 pounding of Lakehead. Along with Neal Dawson and Glen Smith, O’Leary helped the Gaels to a 41-30 advantage on the boards and Simon Mitchell posted 17 points to go along with six assists.

Like the women’s side, the Queen’s men ran into a more formidable opponent on Saturday as they hosted Canada’s eighth-ranked Marauders.

With the game tied 34-34 heading into halftime, it seemed like déjà vu in Bartlett Gym. The teams traded baskets through much of the second half, with Neal Dawson continuing his dominance on the boards and in the paint.

With 40 seconds remaining Queen’s held the ball, trailing 73-69. The referees effectively decided the game with a controversial off-the-ball foul call on Dawson, leading to some McMaster free throws and another heartbreaking loss for the Gaels who, once again, were “just a few breaks away,” as head coach Rob Smart has characterized many Queen’s losses this year.

But last weekend’s games showed that giants fall, underdogs step up, and wins can stack up pretty quickly. And maybe—just maybe—we’ll look back at this article in three years as the beginning of the Gaels’ record streak.

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