In every game, there’s only one winner. Unfortunately for Concordia’s men’s basketball team, the National Championship final was no exception. Up against the undefeated Carleton Ravens, Concordia, the team known for their speed and endurance, ran out of gas, falling 68-48 in their lowest scoring game this season.
In the first game of the tournament, the second-seeded Stingers took on 10th-seeded Saint-Mary’s. The Huskies scrappy defence proved powerless to the Stinger offence which shot over 50 per cent from the field.
“We wanted to control the tempo, make it a fast-paced game and not allow them to do what they did last night (against seventh-seeded Waterloo) walk the ball up the floor and get into the halfcourt offence,” said Stingers’ head coach John Dore.
Despite the large gap in the final score, the first 10 minutes actually resembled a contest. Concordia came up with some key steals and shots from the arc which led to a 26-6 rally. As a team, the Stingers collected 13 steals overall, with Chris Blackwood and Ben Sormonte at three apiece. Phil Langlois, who was second in the nation in assists and led the QSSF in steals, finished with 15 assists and four steals.
Saint Mary’s responded with a nine-point run but Concordia still led 37-25 at halftime. In the second half, the Stinger lead reached 31 points, off some threes by Blackwood and Ratsko Popovic, who each tallied 13 points in the win, and some scores by Pat Perrotte who led all scorers with 20 points, and the game ended with a final score of 87-58.
With the victory over Saint Mary’s, Concordia advanced to the semifinal, where they faced the third-seeded Brock Badgers, who sat second in the national rankings all season long, ahead of third-ranked Concordia, and boasted CIS player of the year, Kevin Stienstra.
What was supposed to be a well matched game saw the Badgers choking, as the Stingers took an early 8-0 lead by double-teaming this six-foot-eight, 250 pound Szinstra forcing Brock to use their guards, who shot a dismal 28 per cent in the first half.
Dwayne Buckley gave TSN viewers a show-stopping dunk which pushed the Stingers lead 22-6. Buckley had 14 points in the victory with 11 coming in the first half alone. By the end of the first stanza, Concordia had a commanding 37-20 lead.
Fueling the intensity of the game were the fans, who were conveniently seated next to the Brock bench, the Badgers cheerleading squad of nine had nothing on the entire section of Concordia fans who came equipped with posters, thundersticks, and drums.
“They [the fans] have been with us since August, they believe in us and it’s good to have them here,” Sormonte said.
The Stinger offence was slow to get started in the second half, and Badgers guard Morgan Fairweather took advantage of this, scoring 16 of his game-leading 22 points during this time.
See Nationals on Page 16
Popovic and Blackwood maintained Concordia’s lead as they posted 15 and 10 points respectively, locking Concordia’s 59-46 victory over the Brock Badgers.
Brock head coach Ken Murray gave kudos to the Stingers.
“We played very scared. Give Concordia a lot of credit, they did a great job and forced us to pick up the tempo, but we couldn’t do it, we’re not that kind of team.”
Although both teams were less than stellar from the field, the determining factors of the game came down to freethrows and turnovers. The Badgers had twice as many fouls as Concordia, giving the Stingers double the opportunities to post points. Additionally, ConU’s 10 turnovers paled in comparison to Brock’s 22. For the first time since 1990 the Concordia Stingers made it to the championship game.
Carleton, headed by CIS coach of the year Dave Smart, had not lost a conference or playoff game in two years, flaunting a 77-0 record heading into the final. The night before, they pulled off a 67-65 victory over the St.F.X. X-Men, and were the favourites going into the gold medal game. Furthermore, the Ravens possessed two All-Canadians on their roster: point guard Mike Smart, son of the head coach, and guard Osvaldo Jeanty.
If the opening two minutes would dictate the game’s ending, it would have ended with Concordia hanging the championship flag in Loyola gym. Sormonte, who scored all of his 14 points in the first half, nailed a three and two free throws to grab a 5-0 lead only two minutes into the game.
With 10 minutes left in the first half, the game was tied at 20 after Carleton hit five three-pointers and Concordia kept pace with some quick steals and patient passing. By halftime, Carleton led 39-31. Concordia was 1-12 from three-point range in the half, while Carleton scored 30 of their points from beyond the arc.
Jeanty, who led all scorers with 24 points – off some three pointers – was virtually unstoppable, helping the Ravens gain a 50-34 lead only four minutes into the second half. Concordia inched closer getting within 13, but that was the closest they would get to catching up. Missed shot after missed shot, the Stingers fell prey to the Ravens stellar defence and shooting. At 2:37, down by 20 points and with no more plans to devise Dore pulled the plug, replacing his starters with reserves.
Perrotte led the Singers with 17 points but, put simply, the Stingers shots were just not dropping. Concordia was 5-24 from the floor in the second half, while Carleton shot over 50 per cent for the game. “There can only be one winner and I think they were the better team,” Perrotte said of Carleton’s performance. “That team has a lot of experience in the championships, they showed that they can shoot and killed us on the perimeter.”
Even first-team all-Canadian Langlois was powerless to the Ravens, going for 0-7 in the last game of his university career, but he managed to do what he does best, handing out nine times in the game.
“We finished second out of 41 teams and surprised a lot people,” Langlois said after his bittersweet finale. “I just really want to thank everyone at Concordia who have always given me a lot of support over the years.”
No one expected this undersized Stingers squad to make it past Laval in the QSSF playoffs, yet alone to the national championship finals. The end was bittersweet for the Maroon and Gold, who accomplished so much in the face of adversity. Overcoming all the obstacles and faithless critics, one can be nothing but proud of this team made of heart and determination.