When the final buzzer sounded an end to the 2002-2003 women’s basketball season, both dejection and pride filled Jennifer Neill left the court knowing it was her last basketball game in a Stinger uniform.
Dejection because the season came to a halt with a second half disaster that eliminated her team from advancing to the QSSF final; Pride because in her five years of play at Concordia she helped bring her team four winning seasons, and even as this season will go down as one of the worst in five years, Neill knows she and her teammates worked as hard as they could to overcome a tough season.
The 2002-2003 version of the women’s basketball team finished third in the league this season with five wins and 11 losses. Overall, including league play, tournaments and playoffs, the final tally for the year is nine wins and 15 losses.
The only team with a worse off record was McGill, who lost four of their five to Concordia. The McGill Martletts this year were suffering from injuries, including defence minded Cheeka Mitchell’s season ending torn ACL, and perhaps that might of boosted the Martletts into a playoff spot, but it was a relatively healthy Stinger team that met the challenges.
The Lady Bees began the season without six foot 2 centre Kristina Steinfort and five foot 9 forward Marie-Pier Veilleux, the team’s leading scorers.
Pier-Veilleux, drained 197 points last year and complimented that by hauling in 71 rebounds. Steinfort’s 231 points and team leading 118 rebounds was sure to draw double coverage from opposing teams.
The loss of those two players to graduation is what hurt this team. Even though the Lady Bees can boast they had three players in the league top ten in scoring, the point total is significantly less than when Steinfort and Pier-Veilleux played.
Pascale Morin, who may have finished first in the league if it wasn’t for an ankle injury that kept her out of the last three games of the season, finished second with 136 points.
“I thought my ankle was okay to go in the season final game,” Morin said. “But we were already in the playoffs and the team felt it was better to rest the ankle.”
Guard M.J. Raposo, who actually had 152 points but finished behind Morin because of more games played, re-discovered that her size can be used to her advantage. Raposo also placed third in rebounding and third in steals. As an individual player her season was consistent and she could be counted on for a stellar performance game in and game out.
Fifth year guard Jennifer Neill, known more for her defence, found her scoring touch this year and finished tenth in the league with 106.
The tall guard admits that she is more of a defensive player but enjoyed having the scoring touch. “Suddenly I was scoring,” she said, after having a game high 21 at the Manitoba Tournament last November. But when it came right down to it Neill’s power on defence was what was needed more.
Despite the loss of veteran players and having three players in the top ten, the real problem was that this team did not play as a team.
The Lady Bees could not hold off any last minute offensive drives by most of the league teams, with the exception of the McGill Martletts.
This lack of concentration often nullified good, sometimes even great performances, by the Stinger squad and only served to reinforce the idea that basketball is a full forty minute game and one had better be prepared to play the full time.
“My team was too unpredictable this season,” said Head Coach Keith Pruden. “At some point in each game we would lose concentration and let the other teams back into it.”
Maybe it was not so much the lack of concentration but more at what point in the game this temporary loss of focus seem to repeatedly occur. It usually occurred when the other team had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“When you stand still and become a spectator what else can be said?” a puzzled Pruden said.
You end up losing game after game and that translates into a losing season. That is unfortunate when you consider the talent on this team.
So when the Bishops Gaiters moved on to meet the Laval Rouge et Or women’s team after staging a second half come back against the Concordia women’s team the headlines could only read that Lady Bees lack of focus in the dying minutes hurt them again.
What is unfortunate, but a part of university life, is that every year players move on. This year is no different. The Stingers say good-bye to Jennifer Neill who played five years for the Gold and Maroon.
“What can I not say about Jennifer,” Pruden said. “She was there for us in the best and worse of times. I wish I could keep her.”