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Team Media beat Team Sport 67 to 64 in an overtime upset at Saturday night’s charity basketball game at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, raising over $3,700 for the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Foundation.
“We genuinely don’t feel as though we could have scripted the game any better than the way it played out,” said executive producer Casey Dobson.
The Sport vs. Media Charity Basketball game was organized by Sport Media students at TMU to raise money as part of their required practicum. “There’s always those questions of, ‘oh, the media always have so much to say, but can they actually play as well as athletes do? That was kind of like the idea behind it,’” said Crina Mustafa, the event’s production manager. Profits went towards the MLSE Foundation, which invests in providing equitable access to sport for kids and communities across Canada.
Team Sport’s athletes had backgrounds in basketball, track and field, hockey, and soccer, and were coached by Sportsnet analyst Blake Murphy. Team Media’s roster was recruited from The Gist, Sportsnet, The Athletic, the Toronto Star, CBC, and more. They were rounded out by Sean Woodley from the Locked On Podcast Network and SDPN’s lead NBA reporter Esfandiar Baraheni as coaches.
Before the game began, NBL Canada player Alex “Superman” Johnson was traded from Team Sport — and from his wife, NCAA basketball veteran Brey Johnson — in exchange for PRSVRE’s Dashawn Stephens and Justin Pooni of Homestand. Alex Johnson led Team Media with 17 points including a hat trick of 3-pointers; while Pooni was left off the scoreboard, Stephens finished the night with eight points. Brey Johnson edged out her husband in the scoring race with 21 points; she and University of Toronto track and fielder Cameron Bruce (15) combined scored over half of Team Sport’s total points.
“I have a team full of athletes. They have a team full of blog boys,” Murphy had said when asked about his game plan on Wednesday. “They actually have more people with traditional basketball experience than we do, but we’re just going to out-run and out-athlete them. There’s no chance they’re going to be able to hang in transition or keep up for a 32-minute game.”
Will Lou of The Raptor’s Show opened the scoring with his only basket of the night less than a minute into the game, and Team Media went onto sustain this lead for most of the game. After the intermission, Team Sport pulled ahead after Bruce and soccer hall of famer Amy Walsh combined for three unanswered 3-pointers. However, No Dunks producer Jerome Cheng – who told OTR on Wednesday that he was “really just hoping I make a couple of buckets” – scored back-to-back triples to regain it.
As the fourth quarter heated up, the game became something of a Johnson versus Johnson showcase. The crowd went wild after Alex Johnson crossovered Elijah Roberts before sinking a 3-pointer, and then again when Brey Johnson blocked her husband’s pass before taking the ball all the way up the court to score.
Brey Johnson sank a 3-pointer to put Team Sport up 57 to 56 with less than a minute left. In the dying seconds, Alex Wong of the Raptors Show was fouled and received two free throws. “It’s just charity,” he jokingly reminded everyone before sinking one of the baskets and sending the game to overtime.
Team Media came out strong in the four minute overtime, going up by 6 points courtesy of two Alex Johnson layups and doubles from photographer Amanda Lee Coffey and Wong. Team Sport put the game within one basket with three free throw points from Bruce and Brey Johnson along with a 2-pointer from TMU Bold hockey player Kyle Bollers, but made the costly mistake of fouling Alex Johnson with only 4.2 second left in the game. Scoring on both free throws, he put Team Media up 67 to 64 to win the game.
Team Media’s victory was a major upset. On Wednesday, Team Sport’s Ailish Forfar – who is co-workers with some of her competitors at Sportsnet – had good-naturedly told OTR that Team Media had “no chance” and that athletes “find a way.” During the third quarter, broadcaster Matthew Davison said that many had counted out Team Media, to which his partner Evan Davis replied that he himself “didn’t think the people behind the scenes that produce our beloved sports games had that dog in them.” Even Cheng had expressed doubt about his team’s chances against professional athletes.
In a post-game interview immediately after receiving the trophy, Team Media coach Baraheni told sideline reporter Abigail Dove that his team “were all incredible, everyone contributed.” Dobson credited the Alex Johnson trade for allowing Media to keep up but gave “full credit to them as a team for rallying and getting the job done.” Wong was named as MVP for the game.
The big winner, however, was the MLSE Foundation who received $3,729.27. “We started this project with a goal of raising $1000 for MLSE so knowing that we nearly quadrupled that is one of the more surreal emotions to have come out of this whole process,” wrote Dobson. “Getting to bring them on as an official charitable partner is something I’m super proud of and I know we’re all thrilled to have provided them with so much support.”
Drew-Anne, or Drew, is a Master of Journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She previously received an Honours BA in International Relations and Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies. Her freelance work can be found in Ottawa Magazine and Spacing. She previously served as editorial fellow for This Magazine and is now the Head of Research at The Otter.