Seniors Chris Blackwood and Rastko Popovic know that their days with the Stingers are winding down. If everything goes as planned and Concordia reaches the national championship, Blackwood and Popovic have at most, five games left. But they aren’t ready for the swan song to start playing just yet.
“I’m starting to realize that my CIS career is coming to an end, but I’m trying my best not to think about it,” Blackwood said after Saturday’s 89-82 win over UQAM. “My focus now is on the playoffs and getting to nationals. I’ll have time to look back and get teary-eyed once we’ve reached our goals.”
Concordia’s 11th straight win came on Senior Day, and leaves the Stingers with a final record of 14-2 in regular-season play. Blackwood, Popovic and graduate student Ben McCarthy were all honoured in a pre-game ceremony with framed jerseys and a plaque.
“It’s starting to hit me more than a few weeks ago,” Popovic said of the inevitable end to his Stinger career. “Guys are joking and having some fun with it, but personally, I try not to think about it. It’s not over yet. We still want to get back to nationals.”
During Saturday’s win, Blackwood finished second on the team with 17 points, trailing only Patrick Perrotte’s 23-point effort. It was a special day for the Human Relations major, who found out at the pregame meal that his Toronto-based high school coach was on hand for the jersey ceremony.
“He was always a special talent, and a very well-liked teammate,” said Roy Rana, Blackwood’s coach at Eastern Commerce High School. “He’s always been able to shoot very well, but coming to Concordia gave him a better understanding of the game, and made him a smarter player.”
Blackwood agrees that he is a different player than the one who arrived at Loyola Gym in 2003. “I’m more mature, and I’ll always have to thank Phil Langlois for helping me in that area,” the five-foot-seven shooting guard said of his backcourt partner from his first two years.
With Langlois gone this season, and rookie point guard Damian Buckley taking over, Blackwood and Popovic took on additional responsibility from the two spot. Now with a maximum of two home playoff games, plus three more in Halifax, these seniors are focused on one thing only; not where they’ll hang up their framed jerseys, but on prolonging the process for at least another three weeks.
The effort gets underway this Friday at Loyola Gym with the QUBL semi-final between Concordia and UQAM (6-10) at 7 p.m.
Forward Andre Johnny left Saturday’s game in the opening minutes with an undisclosed facial injury. He did not return.
Heading into Friday’s playoff opener, the Stingers are 31-3 in conference play over the past two seasons. Over that span, Concordia is 17-1 at home.
Concordia is 12-0 lifetime against UQAM. Friday marks the first ever playoff game for the third year Citadins program.
The Bishop’s Gaiters (9-7) visit the Laval Rouge et Or (9-7) in this weekend’s other semi-final.
Damian Buckley led the Stingers in regular-season scoring, averaging 16.9 points per game. The rookie point guard also led the team in minutes played (30.5), rebounds (6.1) and assists (4.5). He finished first in the conference with an 81.2% efficiency rate from the free throw line.
Stingers coach John Dore was a unanimous choice as the QUBL’s Coach of the Year. The Quebec Student Sports Federation announced its regular-season award winners and all-star teams last Thursday.
It is the tenth Coach of the Year award for Dore, who completed his 17th regular-season at Concordia with a 14-2 record.
The Stingers were shutout of any other individual awards, although point guard Damian Buckley and forward Patrick Perrotte were both named First Team All-Stars.
The 21-year-old Buckley also made the All-Rookie Team, but was three weeks too old to be considered for the conference’s Rookie of the Year award.
Senior Chris Blackwood and second-year forward Dwayne Buckley were recognized as Second Team All-Stars.