Concordia headed into Halifax with a target on their backs. The top-seeded Stingers, with a near-perfect regular season record and more all-stars than one hand can count, were the team to beat. And unfortunately for them, the Saint-Mary’s Huskies delivered that beating early; in the tournament’s opening game Friday afternoon by a score of 63-62.
“The team with the best chemistry wins, and [Saint-Mary’s] had great chemistry coming into this. They had the right people shooting the ball and they know what they’re doing,” said Stingers head coach John Dore.
The outcome eventually came down to the final seconds, and was not void of theatrics. After a clutch Dwayne Buckley 3-pointer tied the game at 62 with 39.9 seconds remaining in the game, Saint-Mary’s had one last possession to win.
With the shot clock winding down, Concordia was called for a foul and Saint-Mary’s guard Mark McLaughlin was sent to the free throw line for two shots. McLaughlin missed the first, but drained the second.
Needing an immediate score, the Stingers in-bounded from under their basket and put the ball in guard Damian Buckley’s hands. Buckley threw up a prayer as the buzzer sounded, but a storybook ending wasn’t in the cards for the Stingers.
“This was a game about tempo and they controlled the tempo,” Dore said. “They compete hard. They play well together. And they were the better team [Friday].”
Concordia struggled from the get-go, and never seemed to get comfortable enough to play their game. Despite poor defence and many missed chances, the Stingers kept the score close, yet never pulled away from the resilient Huskies.
With 14 tied scores and 19 lead changes throughout the match, both teams exchanged baskets back and forth all 40 minutes of play. Still, Concordia had a harder time finding scoring chances, and getting their shots to fall, than their opponents.
“We missed some easy shots, but you have to give Saint-Mary’s a lot of credit,” Dore said. “I told [Saint-Mary’s head coach] Ross Quackenbush after the game that I think this is the best coaching job he’s ever done with this team, and I sincerely believe that.”
The Stingers didn’t help their cause by shooting a sub-par six for 13 from the free throw line. The team’s regular season average was 64 per cent from the line.
“[It] just doesn’t cut it. We didn’t deserve to win the game: too many turnovers and too many mistakes,” Dore said.
Stingers co-captain Patrick Perrotte explained that Saint-Mary’s wanted the ball more, and deserved to win.
“Number one or number eight doesn’t mean anything when you come into this kind of tournament because it’s a win or lose [situation]. Right now, it’s very disappointing,” Perrotte said.
Fight for Fifth
The disappointment of losing their shot at a national title was especially difficult for fifth-year seniors Patrick Perrotte and Ben Sormonte.
“We’re going to have to refocus. It’s going to be tough, but we have two more games,” said Sormonte after Friday’s loss. “We have to go out there and enjoy it, and make the best out of it.”
The Stingers faced off against the Windsor Lancers Saturday in an opportunity to play for fifth place in the tournament’s consolation final, and to redeem themselves after Friday’s poor showing against Saint-Mary’s.
“We wanted to show everybody who the Stingers are and that we didn’t have the first seed for nothing. We wanted to show we’re a good team,” Perrotte said.
Concordia jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead and never looked back. They stretched their lead to as much as 28 points in the second half, which allowed the bench players to compete on the national stage.
“It’s a good experience for the guys. We’ve played in some big games before, but this is the national championship and they can talk about it for the rest of their lives now that they’ve played in it,” Dore said.
More importantly, Dore explained that the win allowed his seniors to play another game in Stingers black and gold. “Pat and Ben have the opportunity to dress again and play another game and we’re grateful,” he said.
“You come in hoping for a national championship and not to win a consolation prize. But I think our guys have so much pride that they carried through in the face of that adversity and did a great job,” said Dore, after Concordia defeated the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the tournament consolation final Sunday afternoon 95-92.
Ranked second overall heading into Halifax, UBC was upset in their first game by the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. The last time UBC faced Concordia was in December 2006 and the Stingers managed a comfortable 84-70 victory.
Stingers guard Sormonte hit five 3-pointers for 15 of his 23 points, and received Player of the Game distinctions.
“We wanted to end on a higher note, but I think we showed a lot of character today,” Sormonte said. “I have no regrets.”