Cedrick Coriolan takes control in overtime to give win for men
After an injury-riddled preseason, the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team was ready to begin their new season. They played against the Université de Laval Rouge et Or Thursday night at the Concordia Gym, and came out with a 75-67 win in overtime.
“I think this will give us great tape to show our guys how to play against pressure, because we have to play these guys three more times and they’re not going to change their defence,” said Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic.
The Stingers jumped on the Rouge et Or, being the sharper team both offensively and defensively early on. The Stingers’s crisp ball movement and aggressive defence caused serious problems for the Rouge et Or, as they struggled to get anything going towards the basket. Concordia dominated rebounding and cruised to a 23-9 first-quarter lead.
Both teams found their offensive rhythm in the second quarter, trading runs throughout. Stingers centre Olivier Simon continued to bully his opponents inside the paint, grabbing several offensive rebounds and leading second-chance opportunities for his teammates.
The Stingers came out with the intent to bury the Rouge et Or in the second quarter as they built a 20-point lead midway through the quarter. However, a few turnovers and timely three-point shots allowed Laval to close the gap to 12 at halftime. By the end of the third quarter, the Stingers held a 52-37 lead.
The Rouge et Or exploded in the fourth, saving their full court press and zone defence for the crunch time, and it threw the Stingers off guard. Less than two minutes into the fourth, Concordia’s lead was down 10 and shrinking.
The momentum was clearly shifting: Laval became lethal from the three-point line and their defence forced turnovers. Nicolas Bégin and Vladimir Thomas carried the Rouge et Or, managing to take their first lead with just under three minutes to go in the third quarter.
Both teams exchanged clutch baskets until Stingers guard Garry Merisier had an opportunity to give his team a one-point lead at the free throw line with 29 seconds left to the game. He missed and Laval came down court but missed its two potential game-winning shots, sending the game to overtime, tied at 62.
In overtime, the Stingers took control, outscoring Laval 13-5, highlighted by a three-point dagger by Cedrick Coriolan. Coach Rastko Popovic was happy, not only with the win, but the experience his team gained.
“We’ve been practicing together since maybe March, so just the fact of us always being together, the chemistry of the teammates and the coaches are better,” Coriolan said. “We’re one unit instead of just the coaching staff and the players, so when things go wrong, we always make sure that we’re all in this together.”
After a long offseason, the Stingers were looking to surprise the number-one ranked team in the country, the Rouge et Or. Despite a 20-point lead at halftime, the Stingers didn’t have enough to beat them, losing 66-61.
“The energy was there, the intensity was there defensively, the aggressiveness was there offensively in the first half,” said head coach Tenicha Gittens. “It’s a tough loss. You see that you’re up twenty and you almost expect to win the game.”
The Stingers’s swarming defence was the story of the first half. They forced turnovers, leading to easy transition baskets. Concordia’s starting center Ladonna Lamonth dominated rebounds, setting the tone early as she finished the game with 13 rebounds, six of them offensively.
The Stingers not only smothered the Rouge et Or, but did so without fouling, leaving their opponents with no free throw attempts in the first half, compared to 16 attempts for Concordia.
With key contributions on the offensive end from guards Caroline Task, Areej Burgonio, and Myriam Leclerc, all scoring more than ten points in the game, the Stingers had a 45-25 lead at halftime.
The first-half beat-down no doubt woke the Rouge et Or up, as they came out determined in the third quarter to close the gap. Sarah-Jane Marois, who scored nine points in the first half, led the charge for Laval as she dominated the second half. Their defence started forcing Concordia to commit untimely turnovers. Towards the end of the quarter, with Concordia up 15 points, the momentum seemed to shift. Marois came up with back-to-back steals leading to a lay-up and a three pointer towards the end of the third quarter, cutting Concordia’s lead to 11.
The Rouge et Or had all the momentum in the fourth quarter as Concordia did their best to hang on to their lead. But Marois’s 16 second-half points led to the Stingers’s eventual demise. It didn’t help that they only scored six points in the fourth quarter.
Gittens made sure to reassure her players that the game was lost on mistakes but not a lack of heart. “I definitely told them to keep their head high because we played hard. It wasn’t a lack of effort, it was just making mistakes,” she said. “I think we still had many opportunities offensively, but sometimes you just can’t control that, so defensively is where you need to take control.”
Both teams play away against the Université de Québec à Montréal Citadins on Nov. 15.
Main photo by Candice Pye.