The Concordia Stingers needed an inspirational fourth quarter rally to defeat the Citadins at the Centre Sportif UQÀM.
In the Wednesday night season-opener, the Stingers were largely outplayed for the first 40 minutes. A 33-9 scoring run, led by forward Evens Laroche and guard Jerome Blake, helped Concordia squeak by with a five-point victory. While the win was nothing short of spectacular, the team was none too thrilled with their game.
“We didn’t play defense for three quarters,” said assistant coach Ernie Rosa, in his 19th year with the team. “Our offense was stagnant and we didn’t work as hard as we could have.”
It was a tale of two completely different games.
Laroche put his team ahead in the first minute of the game with a layup off the rush. But that would be their only lead in the first half as the Citadins shot a decent .469 from the court, outscoring the Stingers 37-25 at the half.
Matters worsened when the Stingers offense couldn’t turn Citadins turnovers into scoring plays. They soon found themselves down 60-41, with one last quarter to play.
“The thing I told the guys is ‘hope, you have to be hopeful’,” said Laroche, last year’s all-Canadian standout. “Even if you’re losing by 15, you have to be hopeful that you can win the game.”
The men in maroon and gold did just that.
Laroche came through in the clutch, stealing a Citadins pass early in the fourth quarter. He also drew praise from his coaches.
“At the end of a game, he’s a guy you want on the floor with the ball,” said Rosa. “He’s a guy who wants to win at any cost.”
It was a sweet victory for Laroche who, just a few months ago, was uncertain whether he would be ready for the season-opener.
Laroche, in his fifth and final year of Canadian Interuniversity basketball eligibility, injured his knee during a daily workout. After an MRI revealed a serious case of patellar tendonitis in his right knee, his season was in jeopardy.
“When I came here and they told me I couldn’t play, it was frustrating,” said Laroche.
After a month-long rest, at his doctor’s behest, Laroche did what he usually does: train hard.
That meant putting in extra hours at the gym to get back in form. He credits daily stretching, icing, and much rest between workouts for his recovery.
It wasn’t long before he was ready for his first action of the 2012-13 season. Much like the Stingers’ comeback victory against UQÀM on Wednesday, Laroche too had a sweet comeback of his own.
The Stingers opened the season 1-0 and are preparing for their home-opener against the Laval Rouge et Or on Nov. 15. Tip off at Concordia Gymnasium is at 8 p.m. following the women’s game.