When the Concordia Stingers heard the buzzer on Saturday to signal the end of their 62-60 victory over the McGill Martlets, there was a sense of relief that could be felt around the Concordia Gym.
The Stingers had finally won their first regular season game. However, it was bittersweet for the Stingers, coming a week after they were officially eliminated from the playoffs and a day after their close game with the Bishop’s Gaiters.
It was still a fight until the end for Concordia. The Stingers led 58-50 with 1:40 remaining in the game, but allowed the Martlets to tie the game at 60 with 18 seconds remaining. That set the stage for the drama. Lady Bees co-captain Melanie Larocque sent her teammates, and the rest of the Stinger fans in attendance into frenzy when she drove the lane and hit the go-ahead basket with five seconds remaining.
“It felt great to see the shot go in. I wasn’t sure about the shot,” Larocque said about the game winner. “I went aggressively and it fell for me. We all wanted it really badly and everybody worked for it.”
“That was a big time shot,” said Keith Pruden, the head coach of the Stingers. “I’ve been waiting for her to do something like that for four years so it is very gratifying.”
Despite the end result, it was still a little too close for a relieved coach Pruden.
“We made some critical errors in the last two minutes,” said Pruden. “We hung in and we didn’t doubt ourselves this time. Last night we had Bishop’s. It was another game we could have won easily but they capitalized on our mistakes. McGill didn’t capitalize as well as Bishop’s did yesterday,” Pruden said.
Larocque agreed that the fact they didn’t allow McGill to come all the way back was a huge confidence booster.
“That’s the game of basketball. When you don’t play well, the other team is going to hit shots,” she said. “We just have to do our part and not let them get back in the game. I think it shows that our character was just that much stronger than at the beginning of the season.”
One difference coming out of their first win of the season was the turnovers. The Stingers had 11 turnovers in the first half, but only four in the second. It was a key, says Pruden.
“That’s huge. If we can keep ourselves to 15 turnovers a game we could beat anybody. What we didn’t do well in the final 3 minutes was make good decisions on shot selection and we took bad shots and missed them,” he said.
The win takes the gorilla off the Stingers’ shoulders and it can be something the team can ride for their final two games.
“Each of the last four games we have played better,” Pruden said. “All a coach can hope for is to show improvement as the season goes on. I’m just disappointed that we’re running out of season. The key for the rest of the season is to win two more games. We feel we can beat Laval and we know we can beat UQAM so we have to go out there and end the season right,” Pruden said.
“We’re all disappointed because we know how much better we are than we’ve played but it’s good for us mentally to see we can beat these teams in a tough conference so I’m pleased but two more wins will make me even happier,” he said.
The Stingers take on the Laval Rouge et Or on Friday February 25 in Quebec City and the UQAM Citadins in their regular season finale on Saturday the 26th at Concordia Gym.