Like a little brother who has to catch up to his older sibling, a young McGill team finally toppled a Concordia team stacked with veterans, after showing steady improvement against the Stingers all season.
After suffering a blow-out loss on home court to start the season, McGill came close to beating the Stingers at Loyola on Jan. 21 in a spirited game. Though the Redmen came up short on the scoreboard, it was evident the team had greatly improved from opening night.
The Redmen took the final step on Saturday night and, for the first time this season, it was Concordia’s turn to watch its greatest rival celebrate a victory.
“Last week we thought we had a chance to beat them and let it slip away, so this was big for our confidence,” said Redmen coach David DeAveiro.
Similar to the teams’ last meeting, McGill took advantage of Concordia’s slow start and grabbed and early lead. The Stingers shot only 29 per cent from the floor and made just one of 11 three-point attempts in the first half.
Playing in front of a vociferous and packed arena, the Redmen had help of a “sixth man” so to speak. “The crowd was great. I hope it keeps getting better and better,” said DeAveiro.
While last week at home the Stingers were eventually able to find their comfort zone late in the game, this was not the case on Saturday.
The poor shooting continued for Concordia in the second half, except Decee Krah who scored a team-leading 17 points on the night, all in the third and fourth quarters.
The Stingers, however, did their best not to let the game get out of reach, and remain within striking distance.
Unfortunately for Concordia, it was McGill’s turn to receive some gratuitous bounces from the basketball gods.
Trailing 63-55, forward James Clark had an opportunity to bring the Stingers within five points, but the fifth-year forward missed an easy layup underneath the basket. The ball eventually popped out to Redmen guard Vincent Dufort to explode down the floor for an uncontested dunk that gave McGill a 10-point lead with just over three minutes remaining, and raised the noise level of the gym a couple decibels. Dufort led McGill in scoring with 16 points.
Mirroring last week, Concordia made several free throws late, making it a three-point game with just 18 seconds left. However, this time McGill didn’t turn the ball over and made their free throws when it counted.
“It’s hard to win a game when you shoot this poorly from the field,” said Concordia coach John Dore. “We had our chances in the end and just didn’t perform well enough to win the game.”
Despite being disappointed with the loss, the Stingers were well aware the cycle of slow starts was bound to catch up with them.
“Honestly, I think that we needed this,” said guard Kyle Desmarais. “I feel like if we’d gone undefeated we could have lost in the finals or semi-finals. This way we see that we’re not unbeatable and that we still have things to work on and it will make us that much better.”
Concordia’s next game is Friday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. at home to Laval.