For pure entertainment value, there probably was not a better place to be than at the Loyola Gym on Oct. 12 when the men’s Concordia Stingers basketball team began their 2002-2003 campaign by defeating the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks 62-53 in the opening round of the annual Nike Tournament.
Led by forward Patrick Perrotte’s 20 points and guard Phillipe Langlois’ crisp passing, the Stingers sent the message that this year they are for real.
Frederic Gagnon, Dilip Nayar and John Dresner each added eight points to help cap off a second half rally that saw a team slowly take advantage of its size and strength.
But it took a little time.
A nervous looking Stinger team came out in the first four minutes of the game with sloppy play, turning the ball over six times in six minutes, bearing an uncanny resemblance to last season’s Stingers.
Hitting six of eight attempted shots, a hot shooting Golden Hawks team took advantage and kept the Stingers trapped in their defensive end.
It appeared that the Hawks, who have several three-point shooters, including the nation’s 2001-2002 top three-point shooter Chris Caruso, would control the game from the outside.
A less than enthusiastic Stinger defence looked like they were offering the Laurier squad every opportunity to shoot.
With early foul trouble and seven more turnovers in the offensive front court, it looked like the Stingers’ hope for victory was fading.
“We were nervous and tentative in the first five minutes of the half,” said Coach John Dore, who called a time-out at the four-minute mark.
“I reminded the players that we are bigger and we can shut down their shooting if we challenged every shot attempt.”
The emphasis during training camp was to take advantage of other teams by using the increase in size, both on offence and defence.
That frame of mind began to pay off. Dan Lacasse, at six foot ten, drew double teams which created open lanes for Perrotte, scoring eight of his 20 points in the first half.
Gagnon, Nayar, and Dresner, who are all over six feet five, hauled in six offensive rebounds between them for a combined 12 first half points.
To combat the Golden Hawks’ shooting, the defence was spread out, forcing them to revert to the inside where the Stingers’ big men were waiting.
At half time the Stingers had crept back into the game trailing 32-26. Coach Dore’s locker room message was clear. “We had to continue to step up on defence and not let up on the Golden Hawk shooters,” he said.
“We were being badly out shot and needed to forget about the first ten minutes of the game.”
It wasn’t long before the Stingers got the message.
Langlois and centre Gagnon, who demonstrated great defence, hauled in six defensive rebounds and created a key turnover at 11:23 that sent a speedy Perrotte racing down court to take a 38-36 lead, the Stingers’ first lead of the game.
“The chemistry was coming,” said Perrotte of his teammates.
“In the second half we just played harder at both ends [of the court] and increased pressure on their shooters.”
The strategy worked.
Golden Hawk’s Andrew Mackay, who hit four of his five attempts in the first half, missed all of his six second-half attempts.
Caruso, who drew double coverage and was forced inside by stingy defence, did not pull off one shot in the half.
Frustrated and exhausted, the Golden Hawks eventually broke down .
And then it began.. rebound, outlet, basket.one after another, and slowly, the Stingers began to take control of the game to finish with a 62-53 win.
“It was our goal from the start of the game to pressure their shooters,” said Dore.
“The slow start was good for us because it forced us to work harder and focus on what we had to do to win.”