Everyone who was anyone in the world of Quebec university and CEGEP basketball was at Concordia’s Loyola Gym last Saturday for the first Annual Qball All-Star Classic.
A capacity crowd of 700 took in a variety of events, which included men’s and women’s all-star games that showcased some of the finest talent the province has to offer.
The event also aimed to serve a larger purpose other than just providing fans with a couple of entertaining basketball games. Qball, which is the name of a relatively new online magazine, is seeking to increase the exposure of Quebec basketball. Former Concordia guard Jonathan Dresner co-founded the site along with friend David Levine, believing that events like the Qball Classic are essential to making basketball more popular, not only in Quebec but the rest of Canada as well.
Dresner succeeded in his mission Saturday as several local media, including the Gazette and CFCF-12, were present in another example of increased support for university athletics this season.
The Classic got started with the women’s all-star game, which mixed up university and CEGEP players, even piting teammates against teammates. Among them was Concordia’s Emilie Ruel, who matched up against team captain Pascale Morin. “There are so many kids that look up to these players. They want to see them play and they’re inspiring to them,” Ruel said. Morin had a game-high 20 points to lead her team to an 87-63 rout. However, it was her teammate for the day, Mireille Karangwa, who took home the prize as the game’s MVP. Karangwa, a centre for the UQAM Citadins, racked-up 17 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in a stellar all-around effort.
Before the men hit the court for their tilt, the crowd was treated to two phenomenal contests: the three-point and the dunk.
Unfortunately for Concordia fans, the three-point shootout saw all the homecourt favourites eliminated in the first round. Among them was Chris Blackwood, who had been one of Quebec’s top three-point shooters in the regular season. Although Concordia’s Pat Perrotte had guaranteed a win prior to the competition, he too came up short, while Alison Neil put in a good effort on the women’s side but couldn’t advance against a surprisingly strong field.
UQAM’s Sam Johnson met Bishop’s Anouk Boulanger in the final, where Boulanger scorched her opponent by draining 15 of her 20 attempts. Both players walked away with a pair of Nike basketball shoes courtesy of Nike Canada, one of the event’s main sponsors.
The dunk competition was a dizzying showcase of basketball skills that left many in attendance taken aback by the amazing creativity most of the competitors displayed.
Champlain’s Vali Lazarescu overcame tough competition from the likes of Concordia’s Dwayne Buckley and UQAM’s Joseph Antagana to win the competition. For his winning dunk, Lazarescu put the ball between his legs in mid-air and finished with an explosive flush. “One of the best ways to make basketball bigger in Quebec is to emulate what’s going inn the United States by giving it a lot of publicity,” Lazarescu said after the competition. “I think over the next ten years that should be our goal and I think we can do that.”
That was followed by the day’s main event, which pitted the CEGEP all-stars against the university all-stars in the men’s game.
For some players, the event was an opportunity to play with teammates one last time before ending their university careers. It also provided a chance for some to play alongside players who have served as their opposition for the last few years.
It was an almost surreal moment for basketball fans to see guys like Blackwood and Concordia teammate Ben Sormonte exchanging high-fives with the likes of Bishop’s Jeff Szita and Laval’s Dominique Soucy.
However, the most anticipated teaming was that of Concordia’s Philippe Langlois with Charles Fortier, his perennial nemesis from Laval.
“Even if all year long we’re in competition those guys are still my friends,” Fortier said. “I was proud to play with Phil because he’s a damn good point guard.”
The game was more than anyone could have hoped for, as all the players continued to do what they had done best in the regular season. Langlois was strong at both ends with 16 assists and five steals, Perrotte had a game-high 21 points, while Fortier chipped in with 19 points, and the 6’8″ Szita played big with six blocks and eight rebounds.
The CEGEP all-stars remained close as Vanier’s Mark Agostino tied the game-high for points with 21. In the end, however, the university all-stars defeated the young guns in a high-scoring 123-114 final.
Sormonte was named the game MVP as he finished with 17 points, most of which came from his five three-pointers. “It was very fun to see all the guys you play against all year and compete against playing on the same team. It was good for us and the audience, ” Sormonte said.