VANCOUVER — The Carleton Ravens were supposed to be a team in transition.
The men’s basketball powerhouse came into the season having won five straight Canadian university titles, but were without three key members integral to the program’s recent success.
It turned out doing things by committee worked just as well.
Connor Wood scored 22 points as Carleton defeated the Calgary Dinos 101-79 on Sunday in the gold-medal game at the CIS Final 8 to capture a sixth consecutive national crown.
The Ravens, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, have now won 12 of the last 14 championships, but this season wasn’t without obstacles.
Carleton head coach Dave Smart stepped away for a sabbatical, leaving nephew and assistant Rob Smart in charge, while star siblings Philip and Thomas Scrubb were lost to graduation.
"A lot of people called it a rebuilding year," said Rob Smart, a former Ravens player. "We kind of figured out halfway that our identity was a little different.
"Once we did they did an unbelievable job buying in."
Smart was in contact with his uncle throughout the season, but encouraged his staff and players to voice their opinions.
"We just had to keep an open mind," said Smart. "Don’t be afraid to show how much you cared and wanted it, even if you looked a little foolish out there at times. Let the best ideas come forward.
"We have no idea game in and game out who’s going to score 15 to 20 and it makes us hard to play against us if everybody’s ready to contribute."
A fourth-year guard from Guelph, Ont., Wood was named tournament MVP after nailing five of Carleton’s 16 three-pointers, while fifth-year guard Gavin Resch of Ottawa added all 18 of his points from beyond the arc.
Fourth-year guard Kaza Kajami-Keane of Ajax, Ont., added 15 points and 10 assists, while fifth-year forward Guillaume Boucard of Montreal chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"It’s just so surreal," said Kajami-Keane, a transfer from Cleveland State. "It’s honestly a dream come true to win a national championship."
Boucard’s main focus was limiting star Calgary guard Thomas Cooper, and while the native of Chattanooga, Tenn., got 25 points and seven boards, two early Boucard blocks set the tone for the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked defence.
"We just to focus on rebounding and defending and then offence will take care of itself," said Kajami-Keane. "We have a lot of people that can put the ball in the hoop."
The Ravens finished the regular season 16-3, losing to the Ottawa Gee-Gees twice and the Ryerson Rams once, before falling again to Ryerson in the OUA title game last weekend — defeats that stung, but helped the team grow.
"We had a different bunch of guys this year," said Resch. "We had some bumps and bruises. From that perspective this one’s a little more special because we really came together."
Carleton advanced to Sunday’s final at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on the campus of the University of British Columbia thanks to a 76-66 victory over the No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers on Saturday, while No. 4 Calgary upset top-ranked Ryerson 98-87 in the other semifinal.
The Ravens led the Dinos 26-14 after the first quarter and held a 48-32 advantage at halftime thanks to that strong defensive play and deadly three-point shooting that saw them hit on 10 of 23 attempts.
Carleton was up 60-40 in the third quarter and carried a 71-56 edge to the fourth. Wood nailed a three to make it 80-61 with 6:26 left before Resch hit another with three minutes to play for a 94-73 score that set the stage for the Ravens’ celebrations.
The most dominate program in Canadian men’s basketball history, Carleton bettered its mark of five straight titles from 2003 to 2007 and is now within one victory of matching the Victoria Vikes’ record of seven in a row from 1980 to 1986.
Calgary, meanwhile, was making its first appearance in a national final since the school’s only other trip in 1966, a year that saw the Dinos lose out to Windsor.
Despite the crushing defeat, Calgary made great strides this season after finishing fifth in Canada West in 2014-15 with a 12-8 mark. Spurred on Cooper’s league-leading 25.8 points per game, the Dinos finished the regular season 17-4 before a 4-0 playoff run and a 2-1 mark at the Final 8.
"Certainly I’m disappointed, but I’ve got to give credit to Carleton. They shot the ball well," said Calgary head coach Dan Vanhooren. "It’s a lesson for our kids."
In Saturday’s third-place game, Ryerson defeated Dalhousie 85-78.
Jean-Victor Mukama, a third-year guard from Hamilton, paced a balanced Ryerson attack with 15 points and six rebounds as the Rams took bronze for a second straight tournament.
"Great steps the last two years," said Ryerson interim head coach Patrick Tatham. "The future’s bright."