Home-court advantage helps Concordia beat Laval Rouge et Or, 72-63
With the help of a raucous home crowd, the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team kept their championship hopes alive by beating the Laval Rouge et Or in the semi-final of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) playoffs with a score of 72-63 on Feb. 28.
The Stingers won their last three regular season games to finish with a record of 11-5, which was good enough to secure second place in the RSEQ, giving them home-court advantage against the Rouge et Or to open up the playoffs. The Stingers beat Laval just four days earlier in an exciting regular-season final, and it seems this momentum carried over to the playoffs.
“I’m very proud of how we stayed composed, focused, disciplined and executed down the stretch,” said head coach Rastko Popovic after the win. “We got the stops when it mattered.”
The Stingers were dominant in the first half, using fluid passing to find open outside shooters, and protecting the rim from any Laval attacker. With five minutes left in the second quarter, Stingers guard Ricardo Monge hit a three-point shot to put Concordia up 16 points, but by the time the buzzer sounded at half, Laval was only down by eight points. The Stingers led 38-30 after two quarters.
The Rouge et Or came out with a ton of energy to open the second half, and their fans who made the trip from Québec City to Concordia were becoming increasingly loud as they continued to chip away at the lead. Laval forward Alexandre Leclerc opened up the fourth quarter with a three-pointer, giving the Rouge et Or their first lead of the game, at 55-54.
Concordia remained calm and weathered the storm. With eight minutes left in the game, Monge came up with a steal and then hit shots on back-to-back possessions to give Concordia a lead again. The Stingers defended well enough in the fourth to allow only 11 points, and they scored 18 points to secure the win.
Monge and guard Jonathan Koud, who were both honoured as second-team RSEQ all-stars in a ceremony prior to the game, were extremely impressive on the court. Monge looked noticeably composed throughout the game, despite the hectic environment and frequent momentum swings.
“I came in ready,” Monge said. “I came prepared to the game to do all I had to do to perform.” The fourth-year player finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists to go along with a steal and a block.
Koud struck fear into the hearts of Laval defenders with his quick drives off the dribble, and was effective at creating chances both inside and outside. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
Stingers centre Olivier Simon also played well, as Laval had no answer for him close to the basket in the paint. He displayed a wide variety of post moves and finished with a soft touch, scoring 17 points. Simon had a 70 per cent field goal percentage and made all three of his free throws.
The Stingers will play the top-seeded McGill Redmen on Saturday, March 3 at McGill in the RSEQ final. It’s the first time the Stingers play in the final since 2012, when they won.
Simon stressed that having beaten McGill once this year, his team doesn’t fear their top ranking. “It’s war,” he said. “It’s a playoff game, anything can happen.”
Stingers forward Ken Beaulieu was also presented with an all-star honour. He was named to the first all-star team for the third time in his career. Concordia players Anthony Sanogo and Matthis Guerut both took home all-rookie honours.
Main photo by Kirubel Mehari.