The Laval Rouge et Or men’s basketball team proved that the Quebec conference is anything but a lock, as they defeated the visiting Concordia Stingers by a 71-55 final in Quebec City on Friday night.
Concordia’s loss marked their first of the season, as their record now stands at 5-1, and has them tied with Laval for top spot in the conference.
“It’s better that this happen now so that we can see what our problems are,” rookie centre Jamaal Gallier said. The contest also gave Laval the opportunity to avenge a defeat at the hands of Concordia earlier this season, in Quebec, where they were hammered 70-50. Although the Stingers were able to hang-in with the Rouge et Or for the better part of the match, they suffered a meltdown in the last five minutes of the game that led to the lopsided score.
“We just broke down mentally and we beat ourselves,” Gallier said. Concordia’s 16-point margin of defeat did little to illustrate the competitiveness of a game that only had the teams separated by a basket with about six minutes left in regulation.
Every point was a hard fought battle in the first half, in which neither squad was able to build any momentum. Although games between the two teams frequently result in below-average scoring, Friday’s tilt was particularly frustrating, with the score standing at a meager 19-16 in favour of the Stingers with just seven minutes left in the half.
Fortunately, both teams also managed to finish strong as Ratsko Popovic and Pat Perrotte combined for Concordia’s last nine points, while Laval’s Marc-Antoine Horth led all scorers with 13 first half points. However, heading into the break, the Stingers only held a slim 28-27 edge after shooting just 33 per cent from the floor and going 2-11 on three-pointers.
The Rouge et Or were able to diversify their offensive options in the second half as four of their starters cracked double-digits, pacing them to a remarkable 64 per cent shooting performance over the final 20 minutes.
While Laval controlled the scoreboard for most of the second half, Concordia prevented them from pulling away as Popovic and Dwayne Buckley came up with big baskets to keep them within range. Then the wheels fell off.
An inability to cash in on their scoring chances, combined with some effective transition play from Laval, resulted in Concordia trailing 61-50 in the last few minutes. Although a Popovic three brought them to within eight points with two minutes left, Laval pulled away in a flurry as Dominique Soucy and Charles Fortier each drilled three-pointers of their own.
Following the game, coach John Dore commented on Concordia getting out-rebounded 40-21 and having the starters shoot a deplorable 14-45 from the field. “We’re just disappointed that the team let up in the end,” he said. “Our decision-making wasn’t at the level it needed to be.”
While equally disappointed with the result, Perrotte maintained that he is confident in the team’s ability and credited team captain Phil Langlois for his continued leadership. “On the court, this is the best team that I’ve seen,” said the fourth year forward. “And Phil is just showing how much he wants the team to succeed and he’s working really hard out there.”