McGill 58-57 Concordia: Nothing comes free for Stingers in George Lengvari Cup

Concordia guard Sami Jahan (9) drives to the basket during the RSEQ Regular Season match between McGill and Concordia on Thursday. REUBEN POLANSKY-SHAPIRO

The Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team fall just short of handing the undefeated McGill Redbirds their first loss of the regular season

The third annual George Lengvari Cup was a back-and-forth affair that will surely be remembered in the storied Concordia/McGill basketball rivalry. Despite the narrow loss, the Stingers can keep their heads up high knowing they were the better club for most of the night, in a matchup against the tenth ranked team in Canada. 

“The game plan was to really hone in defensively and I think we did pretty well,” said Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic after the game. “If you look at the final score, McGill had 58 points but they needed a big run at the end to get there. On most days we should come away with the win with the defence alone but our offence really struggled down the stretch.”

Ahead of Thursday’s matchup, McGill’s unselfish offence posed too many challenges for their opposition on most nights, particularly from three-point range. Led by their fifth-year guard Jamal Mayali, who came into the anticipated contest averaging an impressive 19.2 points-per-game, McGill coming away with the victory felt like a formality, despite Concordia occupying the second seed in the conference. On Nov. 11, the last time the rivals met, McGill convincingly won by a comfortable 15-point margin.

Concordia guard/forward Oge Nwoko (14) shoots the ball during the RSEQ Regular Season match between McGill and Concordia on Thursday. REUBEN POLANSKY-SHAPIRO

Concordia’s first possession of the contest was a beautifully drawn-up play that featured Stingers rookie guard Alec Phaneuf receiving a couple of off-ball screens in motion, which resulted in an open look from three-point range. The first-year standout assertively rose up for the jump shot like a veteran and hit nothing but net, an early sign from the Stingers that they weren’t going to back down from the favoured Redbirds.

The first half ended with Concordia leading 28-21. On defence, the Stingers were exceptional, swarming McGill’s ball handlers and forcing them into difficult, contested looks from midrange. The Redbirds made one three-pointer on ten attempts from distance, and the RSEQ’s leading scorer Mayali didn’t register a single point through 20 minutes. 

Offensively, Concordia was producing quality shot opportunities for the most part, and the team’s third-year guard Sami Jahan was able to bail the Stingers out of rough possessions by making a number of tough layups and a crowd-pleasing rainbow heave from way beyond the three-point arc. Jahan would go on to lead the Stingers in total points with 14, to go along with his three assists. 

“Back in November when we played against McGill, we got blown out. Today, we came and were the better team for 30 minutes, but we just couldn’t pull it together for the last 10 minutes. Even though we lost, we’ve come a long way and made big strides as a group,” Jahan said. 

The Stingers missed five free throw attempts in the opening quarter, which would have nearly doubled their first half lead, had they fallen. Ultimately, those misses would prove to be costly when McGill mounted their 18-point comeback late in the third quarter. 

Once the Redbirds’ looks from three started to drop, the floodgates opened and the atmosphere in the gymnasium completely shifted towards the home team. Concordia’s offence and defence simultaneously collapsed as the pressure escalated, and McGill’s raucous crowd made it difficult for the Stingers to establish themselves back into the game. Even an emphatic reverse dunk by the Stingers best performing regular season player Olivier Simon early in the quarter wasn’t enough to shift the momentum. 

Despite the disastrous fourth quarter, Concordia had possession of the ball in the dying seconds of the match. With the game in his hands, Jahan drew a shooting foul on McGill’s Cameron Elliot in isolation. He would go on to make one of his free throws, and the Redbirds went into their ensuing timeout with signs of life. A Concordia foul on McGill’s inbound play would award Quarry Whyne a trip to the free throw line, where he would go on to knock down a pair to ice the game for the Redbirds. 

“All the training and reps in the gym in practice were for moments [at the free throw line] like that. I felt comfortable, but the first one just didn’t fall my way. It’s part of the game and the process, but I will always be ready for those moments,” Jahan said. 

To say the Stingers lost solely due to their lack of precision at the charity stripe wouldn’t be doing the competitive game justice. The truth is, Concordia outworked McGill through three quarters, and showed a greater desire to win that was evident in their hustle plays throughout. But they became lackadaisical in their approach for a brief stint, and a great team like McGill will always take an inch and never look back.

“It’s almost like we were just hoping for the time to run out instead of taking full control when we were ahead. Our guys need to know that we’re as good as McGill and we know we can beat them,” Popovic said. 

Luckily for the Stingers, the playoff stakes couldn’t have been lower, as the RSEQ standings have already been decided for both teams.

Though the Stingers will have to wait until next year to recapture the Lengvari Cup, Concordia will have another opportunity to upset McGill for bragging rights at home on Saturday afternoon.

Photograph by Reuben Polanski-Shapiro

Total
15
Shares
Previous Article

Ontario Tech 6, Concordia 4: Stingers season cut short

Next Article

Stingers’ 4-1 victory over McGill crowns Concordia RSEQ champions

Related Posts

Stingers swept in final weekend

In Brief The Stingers are not going into the playoffs the way they would like, but the playoffs are a new season for a reason. Concordia lost five of their final six games of the regular season, including being swept in a double header against the conference-leading Ottawa Gee-Gees on Sunday.

Habs Report

After over a month's hiatus, the Habs report is back, offering readers a weekly recap and analysis of their Montreal Canadiens. Last week Montreal started out by playing a great game against the New York Islanders. They were tight, made great passes and the game just flowed really well.

Concordian czars tackle NFL playoffs

St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-4) Other than the two victories against these very Seahawks, including a miraculous 17-point comeback in Seattle in Week five, the Rams have been terrible. With a -24 turnover margin, don't expect anything less than the same high-risk Rams, but expect them to play tough against their heated rivals.