Even though it was just the first game of the regular season, the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team was playing with a chip on its shoulder.
Despite winning the Quebec conference last season and returning the majority of its starters, Concordia was left out of the CIS Top 10 national rankings to start the season.
“I guess the people who vote [on the rankings] don’t take into consideration the fact your best player misses most of the preseason,” said Stingers head coach John Dore. Dore was referring to Concordia guard Kyle Desmarais who missed time playing for Team Canada in the World University Games and also sprained an ankle.
“We don’t talk about it, but I guarantee [being left out of the rankings] bugs at least three or four of us,” said Desmarais. “We’re definitely thinking about it.”
Desmarais led all players with 21 points on the night. He also added eight rebounds to go along with three steals, and seems to have shaken off most of the rust from his preseason ankle injury.
Concordia came out strong early on. Playing a full-court press on defence, the Stingers were able to force 11 Redmen turnovers in the first half. Concordia, on the other hand, only turned the ball over once in the half. The end result of turnovers were some high-flying dunks in transition and a 23-point Stingers lead at halftime.
“We just can’t prepare in practice for a defence like that,” said McGill head coach Dave DeAveiro. “We just don’t have enough guys to replicate that. We might have to practice eight-on-five next time to prepare…Concordia just kicked our ass tonight.”
Concordia took its foot off the pedal in the second half, though. While McGill was unable to get any closer than 10 points in the game’s dying minutes, the Stingers were still concerned with the complacency displayed in the third and fourth quarters.
“For the first game I thought we came out strong, but we wanted to beat them by 40,” said Stingers forward Evens Laroche, who scored 15 points. “I think next time we’ll do a better job [in the second half].”
Laroche was not mincing words when speaking about what the Stingers want to achieve this season. “Our goal is to win a national championship,” he said. “To do that you have to beat every team, and that’s what we’re going to do. We want to win every game by 20 points and send a message to the league.”
Concordia has a long way to go for a repeat trip to the national championship tournament. Still, things are looking pretty favourable for the Stingers. The RSEQ Conference is perhaps the weakest conference in the country, without a single team ranked in the CIS Top 10.
The door is open for the Stingers this year; they just have to run through it.
Concordia takes the court next against Laval at home on Nov. 19 at 4 p.m.