Season recaps: Stingers basketball teams battle to the bitter end

In a COVID-shortened year, both Stingers basketball teams handled the uncertainty like professionals.

Men’s basketball

*Concordia lost in the RSEQ Final vs. McGill on Saturday. The final score was 48-46.

The Stingers men’s team finished second in the regular season with a 6-6 record. Concordia showed glimpses of a team that could run away with the RSEQ championship at times, but struggled to put everything together for extended stretches, particularly on offense. Defensively, the Stingers were suffocating by staying active on ball handlers, poking balls loose and forcing turnovers. They led the RSEQ in scoring defence, holding their opposition to 63 points-per-game on 38 per cent shooting. 

Concordia guard/forward Oge Nwoko (14) prepares to inbound the ball during the RSEQ semi-final match between Bishop’s and Concordia on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. REUBAN POLANSKY SHAPIRO/The Concordian

Rastko Popovic, the Stingers’ head coach, always emphasized the importance of defence. In basketball, he explained how offense can occasionally be hard to come by, even if a team is producing open looks at the basket. Players can only optimize their chances of making a basket. Conversely, defence essentially boils down to effort and basketball IQ, elements of the sport that are much easier to control. Concordia instilled their coach’s philosophy on most nights, but struggled with mental lapses that would cost them down the stretch in important games. 

In a year filled with uncertainty, Olivier Simon was Concordia’s most consistent player once again. The fifth-year veteran earned first all-star team honours, finishing second in the RSEQ scoring race and tallying a little over 16 points-per-game. In his 11 games played, he showed his versatility beyond scoring, averaging 7.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest. 

In his sophomore season with the Stingers, Sami Jahan built on his 2020 all-rookie campaign by making the second all-star team. Though he struggled with poor shot selection and questionable decision making at times, the Ontario native was never afraid of the moment. Jahan trailed only Simon in scoring for the team, and was Concordia’s primary ball handler when the Stingers offence stalled and was in desperate need for production. 

Steve Mbida Abomo, a rookie forward from Cameroon, instantly made an impact for the Stingers on his way to making the RSEQ all-rookie team. He earned Popovic’s trust early in the season, starting in eight of 10 games and averaging the second most minutes on the team. Though Alec Phaneuf didn’t earn any individual honours in his rookie season, his unselfishness on offence mixed with his defensive awareness made the difference in a few competitive games. Alongside Jahan’s scoring instincts, the future is bright for the Stingers backcourt.

Concordia guard Caroline Task (7) led the Stingers in scoring with 17 total points in the RSEQ semifinals on March 23, 2022. KYRAN THICKE/Concordia Stingers

Women’s basketball

*Concordia lost in the RSEQ semifinals vs. UQAM last Wednesday. The final score was 75-68

The Stingers women’s team finished first in the conference with a 9-3 record, winning the regular season title for the first time since 1998-99. Concordia won seven of their last eight, including a 100-44 beatdown of McGill in their final showing. Anything can happen in a best-of-one playoff format however, as the Stingers ran into a well-prepared UQAM team that managed to pull off the upset. 

Whereas Popovic distributed the men’s team’s minutes throughout the regular season, women’s head coach Tenicha Gittens stuck to her most reliable weapons for larger stretches of games. Myriam Leclerc, Coralie Dumont, and Caroline Task played over 30 minutes a game for the women’s team, a significant load compared to Simon’s team-leading 27 minutes for the men. Gittens stuck to her veterans through thick and thin, regardless of their play. On the other hand, Popovic constantly shifted the starting lineups and adjusted the minute load depending on the state of the game and who played well. 

Despite a slow start to the season by her standards, Leclerc was Concordia’s number one option on offence. Coming off a torn ACL in the 2019-20 season, once her confidence returned it was tough to ignore how crucial she was to Concordia’s success. The third-year guard earned first all-star team honours and was also nominated for the U Sports Tracy MacLeod Award, which recognizes perseverance and courage in the sport. For the season, Leclerc averaged 16 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.6 steals in nearly 36 minutes per game. She also led the nation in free-throw percentage at 95.9 per cent on 49 attempts. Gittens won Coach of the Year for the team’s strong regular season showing, and Stingers fifth-year guard Task joined Leclerc on the first all-star team. She was the team’s best three-point shooter by a wide margin when you factor in her high volume. Task shot 41.9 per cent on 74 attempts. 

Dumont earned second all-star team honours in her third year with the Stingers, imposing her will on offensive boards and drawing fouls at an elite rate. Nelly Owusu was nominated for the U Sports Sylvia Sweeney Award, which is presented to the player who best exemplifies leadership and social commitment in women’s basketball. Finally, centre Serena Tchida made the conference’s all-rookie team after a long-term knee injury kept her sidelined in the 2019-20 season.


Photographs by Matt Garies, Reuben Polansky-Shapiro, Kyran Thicke 


A long-awaited return to competition for Concordia’s basketball program

The extended pause to the RSEQ regular season was a burdensome time for the Stingers, but has given the teams additional time to fix issues in their game

On Monday, the RSEQ announced the resumption of university games as of Feb. 14, following Premier Legault’s press conference last Tuesday. Before the return of the regular season, here’s what you need to know about the Stingers basketball teams. 

Women’s Basketball

Concordia finished their November slate of games with an underwhelming 2-2 record after a promising start to the season, which saw the Stingers beat McGill and Bishop’s in commanding fashion. Head coach of the women’s team Tenicha Gittens knows her players have the ability and talent to win on any given night, but has preached consistency above all else over the extended break. 

“The first four games were like a rollercoaster ride for us,” Gittens said. “It’s one thing to be good, […] but we’ve been working on finding the competitive fire and sense of urgency from the jump. The RSEQ is well balanced, so we really need to bring our A game every single night.”

“Right now, we have this bitter taste in our mouth from the way things ended [in November], so it’s about keeping that level of urgency throughout.” 

In some ways, the long layoff from competition was a blessing in disguise for the Stingers. For the players with high-usage rates like Caroline Task, Coralie Dumont, and Nelly Owusu, the break allowed their bodies to recover for a looming playoff push.

Several players were coming off injuries to begin the season, and used the time to properly adjust to the in-game intensity. Johannie Lamoureux is a first-year guard who has been out of the lineup this season due to concussion protocols, but should now be getting significant minutes according to Gittens. Serena Tchida is another freshman who will need time to bounce back from her past knee setbacks.

Gittens praised the entire team for the dedication they’ve shown during the hiatus, but emphasized two players in particular.

“Myriam [Leclerc] is just a naturally gifted player. She can average 14 points [per game] and people think she’s okay, but really she can average about 22 [points per game]. We’re starting to see glimpses of that and that’s really exciting,” Gittens said.

“Areej Burgonio gets the whole team going,” Gittens added. “She’s exciting, she’s our heart, our energy.”

Men’s Basketball

Much like the women’s squad, the Stingers men are looking to improve on their 2-2 record. In discussing the first four games of the year, men’s basketball head coach Rastko Popovic was proud of the way the team defended down the stretch.

“Our game against Bishop’s [on Nov. 18], we kept them under 50 points, which isn’t something you see often in our league when you see some scores in the 80s and 90s,” Popovic explained. “In practice, we spend a lot of time working on our defence, because we can’t really control our offence, but what we can control is how hard we move our feet and rebound.”

At the end of the day, defence can only take a team so far, and the team’s offence, particularly their three-point shooting, will eventually need to follow suit. Through four games, the Stingers have gone 23-106 on their attempts from beyond-the-arc, which come out to a little under 22 per cent. Popovic was quick to point out that many of the looks were wide-open, and said it’s simply on the players to knock them down. 

“Olivier Simon has been very dominant for us, but we need to do a better job of supporting him outside the paint by knocking down our threes,” Popovic said. “If we can do that, the entire offence will open up for us.”

Simon has led the Stingers in scoring and total rebounds in three out of four games played so far, demonstrating his importance to Concordia’s system as their go-to guy. Popovic was also impressed with his rookie guards Alec Phaneuf and Olivier Koumassou Bernier, who earned their spot in the rotation. Sami Jahan had a slow start in his sophomore year considering his standout rookie status in the 2019-20 season, but the Stingers coach expects the point guard to bounce back from his shooting slump in the second half of the season. 

Popovic would have liked his team to have had more time to practice together, but said he’s happy to see his players get a chance to do what they love again.

“With only eight games when things start back up, it’s going to be like a mini season where every game will become even more crucial for standings in the playoffs,” Popovic remarked. “It’s exciting and if we can improve our offence, I think we’ll be a very fun team to watch.”


Photograph by Catherine Reynolds


A long road to recovery for Serena Tchida

Concordia Stingers basketball forward Serena Tchida battled adversity to get to where she is today

In 2019, Serena Tchida’s collegiate basketball career was taking off. Playing for Cégep Édouard-Montpetit, her knack for rebounding and finishing around the rim was able to draw the attention of Concordia Stingers head coach Tenicha Gittens in January.

Tchida had excelled in basketball since she first picked up the sport at 15 years old. Now, in the midst of recruitment, all the six-foot forward needed was to showcase her abilities one more time. 

She had no idea that would be the last five-on-five game she would play. 

“In the first quarter, I partially tore my ACL,” Tchida said. “I had never been injured before besides some ankle issues, so during the game I wanted to go back on the court and play through it. I knew coach [Gittens] was recruiting me but my coach at the time told me to slow down and sit for the game because it’s my knee.” 

Tchida took some time to rest in the days following the game and managed to reduce the swelling in her right knee. Upon returning to practice with her team, despite the precautions she would fully tear her ACL.

“There were times when I wanted to quit [basketball], but coach [Gittens] helped steer me back in the right direction. She was there through it all,” Tchida said. 

The road to recovery in sports is impossible to accurately document. For every moment of glory in an athlete’s career, there is potential suffering around the corner. All the hard work and repetitions put in the gym behind the scenes can come crashing down with a single misstep, and prompt years of devotion towards simply being you again. 

Unfortunately for many student athletes, sustaining a major injury will beat them to the ground. Tchida said it tested her mentality more than anything. “Honestly, I feel like I’m stronger now,” Tchida said. “Now I think my injured [right] knee is stronger than my left. The MRI, rehab, and surgery was all taken care of by Concordia and coach [Gittens] because I was still being recruited, so recovering properly definitely helped.” 

Tchida works on her free throws ahead of the 2021-22 basketball season

“What made it so tough was that I was still studying at Édouard-Montpetit, but I was getting treatment on my knee at

 Concordia. So I was travelling between two schools and home every day.” she added. 

Tchida’s battles with injuries wouldn’t end there. While rehabbing from her ACL injury, she pulled her hamstring which kept her out of action for the entire 2019-20 basketball season. 

She described her experience as a rookie, and not being able to play and contribute to her team, as strenuous. 

“As a first-year, I felt a little bit out of place with the change in school,” Tchida said. “Under normal circumstances, I could play and connect with my teammates on the court but I was still rehabbing from my injuries. Again, coach [Gittens] was amazing to me and helped me find my place and feel comfortable.”

Once March 2020 rolled around and in-person activities were cancelled in response to the global pandemic, the women’s basketball team met online three times a week and continued to train with weights from home. In the summer of that year, government regulations permitted groups to train outside as long as physical distancing rules were respected as much as possible. Tchida said the team was split into groups for guards and forwards and would meet at 6 a.m. to train. In the fall, things shut down once more. 

“During that time, I connected with my teammates a lot and now we are like sisters. So it was really difficult when we had to go back to meeting online. I honestly don’t remember what we did after that, everything passed by like a blur,” Tchida said. 

To help the team cope with ongoing stress, Gittens set up weekly online meetings during the semester that were focused solely on talking amongst each other. 

“We would talk about things that were not related to basketball, just connecting with each other and letting out our emotions. It was an amazing idea by coach [Gittens] and another reason for why she’s so great.” 

When Montreal became a COVID-19 green zone, the team took their outdoor training back to the gymnasium, where they would practice three times a week. With the resumption of school and basketball season around the corner, the team upped their practice regiment to five times a week on top of weight training sessions.

Tchida has been on a long and strenuous road to recovery since early 2019, the last time she participated in a high-level basketball game. There were bumps and bruises along the way, but the Stingers forward going into her third year at Concordia University is finally ready to make her presence on the court known. 

“It’s been so long since I’ve played five-on-five, so I’m honestly a bit nervous,” Tchida said. “But I’m trying to take it one day at a time and focus on the things I can control.”

“I’m confident in the work I put in during practice and my recovery, so I’m hoping to show people I came out of this long break as a more complete basketball player.” 


Photographs by Catherine Reynolds


Head coach Tenicha Gittens wants players to get stronger

Stingers hope to learn from first experience at nationals in 20 years

A year after finishing the regular season with a 4-12 record, the Concordia Stingers women’s basketball team made it all the way to the U Sports nationals this season. They qualified after losing in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) final against the Laval Rouge et Or, and were eliminated by the McMaster Marauders in the quarter-finals at nationals.

Despite their successful season this year, head coach Tenicha Gittens believes her team needs more depth. “Our bench has been thin all season long, so when we get [to nationals], it does matter,” Gittens said on CJLO Sports on March 11.

Injuries contributed to the short bench this season. Rookie Nelly Owusu was injured before the regular season began, and hasn’t played since, shortening the roster by one. “She was a big part of what we wanted to do,” Gittens said. “She was part of our starting line-up [in preseason games]. I think if she had been healthy throughout the season, she would have been fighting for the rookie of the year.”

Caroline Task (pictured) finished third in league scoring with 15.6 points per game. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Looking ahead to next season, Gittens hopes to increase the team’s roster through recruiting, but doesn’t have any official commitments right now.

“Not having Nelly, this is where it really hurt us, in this postseason,” Gittens added. “To have her in that rotation would have done wonders for us. It would have been a completely different basketball team.”

Leclerc was the third-straight Stinger to win the RSEQ rookie of the year award after Task won in 2017, and Coralie Dumont last year. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Gittens wants her team to get stronger physically for next season, to avoid any future injuries. “Physically, I thought we were weaker than most teams out there, so that’s something we have to get better at,” she said. “We have the talent, we’re just inexperienced. There’s ways we can get around that, and it’s just building our mind to sustain [the season].”

The Stingers benefitted from having the U Sports and RSEQ rookie of the year, Myriam Leclerc. She led the RSEQ in points and assists per game, with 18.8 and 4.6, respectively. Leclerc was also named to the U Sports second all-Canadian team, and the RSEQ’s first all-star team.

Guard Caroline Task was also named to the RSEQ first all-star team, and rookie guard Areej Burgonio made the RSEQ all-rookie team.

“[Leclerc] is just a special talent, and every once in a while, you’re lucky enough to get a talent like that in your program,” Gittens said. “She does everything. She’s a shooting point guard, she’s a passing point guard, and she gets buckets at will […]. She’s a tremendous talent and she’s raised everybody’s level of play.”

However, Gittens wants to see Leclerc get stronger over the summer, just like the rest of the team. “She’s been banged up all season long, but she’s one of those players that’s going to play through [injuries],” Gittens added. “She literally has to be broken to stop playing. We saw that in the final against Laval, when she didn’t play the second half because she physically could not go anymore […]. After that final game at nationals, she told me, ‘Coach, I’m going to be tank this summer,’ so she knows what she needs to work on.”

Burgonio (pictured) averaged 4.1 points in nearly 24 minutes per game this year. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

At the national tournament in Toronto, the Stingers lost to McMaster 86-68 in their first game. The Marauders went onto win the national championship, beating the Rouge et Or in the final. In their consolation game against the Acadia Axewomen, the Stingers had a two-point lead after three quarters, but they ultimately lost 86-74.

“It was a disappointing end to the season,” Gittens said. “But we ended the season at nationals, so even though it seems like losing those two games made the season a wash, we have to remember we got to this point. I knew our biggest challenge going in would be the inexperience of it all, and I knew the other teams going had a taste of nationals.”

The Stingers last played in the national tournament in 1999, and started with the seventh seed as a wild card berth. About this year’s trip to nationals, Gittens said: “We enjoyed the banquet and being treated as one of the top eight teams in Canada, because they have to soak all of that in. We watched basketball and just kind of learned from the other teams that kept moving on.”

If they do get back to nationals next season, they’ll know what to do.

“The experience [at nationals] was definitely the biggest takeaway,” Gittens said. “You try to get them to buy in and believe, and kind of sell them on a dream that they can get there. Now they know the path to take.”

Main photo by Gabe Chevalier.


Stingers end Martlets title run in semi-final win

Concordia scores 19 points in final five minutes to move onto to RSEQ final

The Concordia Stingers women’s basketball team ended the McGill Martlets title run in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) semi-final. They won 62-55 at the Concordia Gym Wednesday night, ending McGill’s seven-year run as champions.

The Stingers missed the playoffs last year with a 4-12 record, and get to play in the final this year. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

After domination in the first quarter that gave the Stingers a 19-9 lead, they saw the Martlets coming back in the second quarter. The score was 30-29 for Concordia at halftime, and the Martlets took the lead in the third quarter. Concordia trailed behind and were losing by eight with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Stingers went on a 19-4 run to close out the game and get the win.

“I thought they showed a lot of character,” said head coach Tenicha Gittens, who was happy with her team’s performance. “When you are down seven points, it’s easy to just get down but we came back […]. You can get tired but you won’t be playing tomorrow. You can be tired next month.”

Gittens added that defence kept them in the game in the second half, allowing only 26 points. “Offensively, [the shots] were not falling,” Gittens said. “Our girls did a good job adjusting during the fourth quarter.

A team filled with rookies, this was the first playoff experience for most of them. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Gittens also saw leadership from guards Caroline Task and forward Coralie Dumont when it mattered. Dumont played 39 of 40 minutes, collecting nine rebounds and scoring eight points. Rookie guard Myriam Leclerc also played 39 minutes, and had the most points in the game with 28.

“We never gave up,” Task said. “We had ups and downs, everybody played their part in the game.”

The Stingers will play the Université de Laval Rouge et Or on Saturday in Quebec City in the RSEQ final. The 15-1 Rouge et Or beat Concordia all four times this season, but only won by two points in their last meeting on Feb. 21.

“They won it last time but we’ll win it when it matters,” Task said about the final. “I am really excited. We played them last week and we fell short by two points and that means nothing. We know what we need to do to win the next game.”

The Stingers return to the final after losing to McGill in 2017. Laval will be looking to avenge their loss at last year’s finals, also against the Martlets.

Main photo by Gabe Chevalier.


Stingers teams continue rolling with doubleheader wins against Bishop’s

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams improve to 5-1

Both Concordia Stingers basketball teams walked away with a win against the Bishop’s Gaiters Thursday night at the Concordia Gym. It was the first ff a back-to-back games between the schools, as they meet again on Sat. Jan. 12 in Sherbrooke.

Women’s game

The Stingers women’s basketball team won 66-53 with a good performance in their first game after the holiday break. The Stingers held a 28-point lead at halftime after having dominated the first half.

The momentum of the game change in the second half as Bishop’s dominated the last portion of the game. Despite giving up points in second half, the Stingers were able to hold on to a comfortable lead and found a way to win.

“I think on the first half we came out with a lot of energy,” said head coach Tenicha Gittens about her team’s performance. “Especially on the defensive end.”

What started off looking like a potential blow-out win turned into a tight game during the second half. The Stingers were slower and gave many turnovers to their opponents, opening the door for a big offensive push by the Gaiters.

“We did not stick to our game plan and we did not take care of the ball offensively so it caused turnovers,” Gittens said. “At the end of the day, you want the W and that’s what we want.”

Both guard Myriam Leclerc and forward Coralie Dumont led the Stingers offensively with 19 and 18 points respectively. Dumont scored 16 of her points in the first half alone.

“The first half was really good and that what we practiced in defence paid off,” Dumont said. “Yes we won, but it’s disappointing to win by that margin when we were up by a lot more. We will look back at the second half and will make sure we are ready for Saturday’s game.”

She continued to say that the Stingers dropped off in the second half because they “had no legs and [Bishop’s] played without fear.”

Good rebound control and ball possession combined with speed made a big difference during the first two quarters, and allowed the Stingers to win the game.

Garry Merisier started for the Stingers and was one of four players to score more than 10 points. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.
Men’s game

The men’s team also picked up a win following the women’s game, by a score of 78-68. It was a really tight game, as there were 15 lead changes during the game. The Stingers took a seven-point lead during the first quarter, but lifted their foot off the gas at the beginning of the second half. This allowed the Gaiters to came back in the game and take the lead for a little while.

Sami Ghandour’s buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter allowed Concordia to regain some momentum. They readjusted and showcased toughness for the end of the game.

“We played hard, we competed, we had a good start on defence,” said head coach Rastko Popovic, who was happy with his team’s performance. “We did not pay attention on the scouting report details and it made us look bad on defence. You can’t relax at basketball.”

Popovic thought his team bounced back really well at the end of the game. “In the fourth quarter we played really well defensively; we showed some toughness and character and we found a way to win,” the coach added. “It’s never easy to win by a lot. If you relax any team can come back.”

Popovic was happy by the defensive performances from Ricardo Monge and Cedrick Coriolan. “The key was that we made good plays; many of them made a big difference both offensively and defensively,” he said. “There is some plays you don’t see on the score sheet but we know they made a difference.”

During the holiday break, the Stingers played three exhibition games in Florida. Popovic contributed their second-half success to their trip. “The trip allowed us to be prepared for the second half, because it’s tough if you don’t play during the break,” he said.

Forward Olivier Simon, who finished the game with 21 points, said key three-point shots helped the team win. They went 9-for-25 from three-point shooting.

“We need to be more tough mentally and be focused, and that’s what we have been able to do during the last five minutes of the game,” Simon added.

Moving to their game against Bishop’s on Saturday, Popovic is looking forward to how his team responds. “We have to watch video, we have to take care of the basketball better. It’s like a challenge and I am looking forward to that game,” Popovic said.

Simon is also looking forward to it. “I am really confident for Saturday. We will look at video and have a good practice,” he said. “We will showcase that we deserve our ninth spot in Canada.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams improved to a 5-1 record this season.

Main photo by Gabe Chevalier.


Basketball teams end semester on a winning note

Stingers sweep the Citadins; both Concordia teams now have a 4-1 record

The Concordia Stingers basketball teams beat the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins in a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at the Concordia Gym.

Women’s game

Despite a 64-53 victory, the Stingers had a rough first half—something head coach Tenicha Gittens was quick to change at halftime. Her team played with character and pride in the second half to help them to the win.

“We started it off slow in the first half,” Gittens said. “We didn’t follow the game plan defensively and we weren’t competitive on the glass.”

With the game tied at 26, Gittens had a clear message for her team at halftime: to protect home court. “We pride ourselves on defence, and UQAM is a very good team,” she said.

The head coach said her players acknowledged their initial poor performance and adjusted to have a better second half.

“The key was defence,” Gittens said. “We forced turnovers.”

The Stingers were quick on rebounds and made good passes in the second half. They had proper positioning both offensively and defensively. After taking the lead early in the third quarter, the Stingers didn’t let go of the lead for the rest of the game.

Although UQAM—with its 0-5 record—is not a top-ranking team in the standings, Gittens said she was impressed by how the Citadins challenged her team.

Offensively, point guard Myriam Leclerc led the Stingers with a solid performance, scoring 25 points. Her three three-pointers certainly helped the Stingers increase their lead, but Gittens said she was also happy with how the team played defensively.

“When you look at the turnovers and the rebounds, it made a big difference and was a key in today’s win,” she said.

Adrian Armstrong was instrumental in the team’s three-point shooting success. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.
Men’s game

Speed, preparation and accuracy helped the Stingers in their 83-59 win over the Citadins. Their defence quashed most of UQAM’s scoring opportunities, and the Stingers made the most of their time with the ball, hitting 12/35 three-point attempts.

“I am happy the way we played and the way we competed,” said Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic.

After a disappointing 17-point loss to the Citadins on Nov. 15, the Stingers were ready for redemption. “This was a very, very important game for us,” Popovic said.

The team’s preparation was evident; they dominated from the start, on a high from two consecutive wins last weekend. Stingers guard Cedrick Coriolan said he was pleased with the way his team played.

“They key was our defence; we kept them under 70 points which is usually our goal,” Coriolan said. “We followed the scouting report perfectly, and that allowed us to earn the win.”

Stingers point guard Ricardo Monge dominated offensively, recording the game-high in points with 22, but Popovic said the victory was a full-team effort.

“Everyone who showed up on the court today played well,” Popovic said. “I thought the guys executed the game plan as a team. Everybody is responsible for our success.”

The head coach stressed the importance of this win, which allows the Stingers to head into the winter break in first place. “They are buying in now, and they understand what’s necessary to win,” he said. “You don’t want to lose your last game before the break and think about it for weeks. That is a big win for us.”

Both basketball teams are off for the winter break and will be back on Jan. 10 with a home doubleheader against the Bishop’s University Gaiters.

Main photo by Mackenzie Lad.


Myriam Leclerc is taking on a leadership role

Rookie already impressing women’s basketball team

It’s clear Myriam Leclerc can score points for the Concordia Stingers women’s basketball team. In her three years playing for Cégep Ste-Foy in Quebec City, she averaged 12.7 points per game, and led the league in scoring in her final season last year. But what she brings to the Stingers is so much more than just scoring—she brings leadership.

“I need to be a leader, speak and don’t be shy to say what I think,” Leclerc said about her leadership style. “I think I’m the type of person you could talk to.”

Myriam Leclerc says she wants to be as vocal as possible on the court. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Leclerc is in her first season with the Stingers and when head coach Tenicha Gittens was recruiting her, she challenged her to be a vocal leader.

“She always has this poise to her, you never know what she’s thinking, and as a point guard, you have to be poised,” said Gittens about Leclerc. “But you also have to be vocal. You have to get other people involved, directing using hand gestures, and that’s something I challenge her everyday to do in practice.”

The point guard is one of six rookies on the new-look basketball team. Coming out of Cégep, Leclerc chose Concordia because she knew it’s where she belonged right away.

“When I visited here, I felt like it was my place with the girls and coaches, and the atmosphere felt really good,” Leclerc said. She enrolled in accounting because she enjoys working with numbers and business, and heard great things about the John Molson School of Business. “Everything was just a good choice for me, academically and with the team sports.”

Leclerc said she’s enjoying her first semester at Concordia, but is only taking three classes because it’s the first time she’s doing her schooling in English. It’s not the first time she’s playing basketball in an English environment—she first did that with the Canadian national team at various youth levels. Since 2014, Leclerc has been participating in training camps for the youth national team in Toronto, where she first learned how to be a leader.

“The whole experience [with Team Canada] was great, and I could speak more English than I was before, and I’m more confident with meeting people,” Leclerc said, adding that it helped her come to Concordia with knowledge of English basketball terms. Still, her teammates are there for her when she needs them.

“I know if I’m struggling [to find a word], I know the girls have my back, so I’m confident about it,” Leclerc said.

“We make a lot of fun of my accent in the locker room,” Leclerc added with a big laugh, saying it’s all in good fun. “We know it’s friendly and lovely.”

The rookie’s play on the court is nothing to laugh at. She instantly made an impact for her team, carrying the Stingers to a perfect 3-0 record and winning the MVP award at the Concordia Classic tournament. She has already been named the female Stingers athlete of the week twice this semester, once for her performance at the Concordia Classic on Oct. 9, and again on Nov. 13 for her 17-point game in the home-opener. As a point guard, Leclerc controls the play and sees the court well. “My greatest strength is my IQ, like I know when to rush [the ball up] or when not to,” Leclerc said.

“She’s a floor general and understands the game,” Gittens said. “She can score freely and get other people involved. She creates [chances] for other people and creates them for herself, and brings a calmness to the team.”

WBasketball_23_HEwen8 – Leclerc drives the basket against the Bishop’s Gaiters on Nov. 24. Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Gittens is benefitting from having a player like Leclerc. A year after going 4-12 and missing the playoffs, the Stingers went 9-1 in the preseason and sit in second place in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) with a 3-1 record. Leclerc is averaging a team-high 17.8 points, 3.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. But this doesn’t come as a surprise to Gittens.

“If anyone followed her throughout her Cégep career and saw what she did on the court with the team she had, then coming here with [the players we have], then it’s no surprise to what she’s done,” Gittens said.

Leclerc credits the team’s success to a good atmosphere. “We’re always together and bonding, we’re a loud team and we’ve just had so much fun so far this year” Leclerc said. “We just like each other, there’s no one [girl] you like more than any other. We’re just like a family with a bunch of sisters and we have each others’s backs.”

The first-year grew up in Saint-Roch-de-Richelieu, a municipality of over 2,000 people close to 80 kilometres east of the Loyola campus. There, she started playing basketball at eight years old, before moving to Quebec City for Cégep. Now in Montreal, she’s closer to her family.

Leclerc said her biggest role models growing up were her parents, Rosanne and Bruno, who were always there for her. “They worked so hard for me and pushed me,” Leclerc said. “When I was not knowing what to do or didn’t know if I wanted to continue playing basketball, they were there for me and kept pushing me.”

The rookie point guard said there were times, such as between high school and Cégep, when she wondered if it was worth pursuing basketball. “But for me, it wasn’t an option to stop—I needed to play basketball.”

Luckily for the Stingers, Leclerc has continued playing until now, and wants to help her team succeed. “We want to be the provincial champions for sure. We have the team to do it, we just need to keep pushing and get better every day.”

Main photo Gabe Chevalier.


Stingers bring home two wins against McGill

Basketball teams both 2-1 on the season

Both Concordia Stingers basketball teams beat McGill Thursday night at the Love Competition Hall in downtown Montreal. The women’s team won 77-63, while the men avenged their loss in last year’s final with a 87-81 win.

The Stingers have now won two-straight games after their opening loss against Laval. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.
Women’s Game

After losing their first game of the season earlier this month, the Stingers have now won two consecutive games.

The Stingers’s defence had to set up strong early in the game. The team allowed only six points in the second quarter, and led 46-23 at halftime. However, the Martlets scored 40 points in the last 20 minutes of play to give a good battle to the Stingers.

“I think we did a good job in general,” said Stingers head coach Tenicha Gittens. “There are still things we need to be tightening up defensively and fix. In the second half, a lot of their shooters got loose, and that’s just us having a mental lapse.”

First-year point guard Myriam Leclerc carried her team, registering 24 points, four assists, and four steals. Leclerc now has 59 points in three games played this season, giving her an average of 19.7 points per game.

According to Gittens, Leclerc takes pressure off her teammates. “She’s our floor general,” Gittens said. The term “floor general” in basketball is used to describe a player that brings leadership by dictating the offence. “As she goes, we go. When she’s playing well, it makes it easier for girls like [guard] Caroline Task to do what she has to do. [Forward] Coralie Dumont comes in and does what she does.”

Leclerc said the trust between the players helped her against the Martlets. “If there’s something, we let each other know,” Leclerc said. “We’re confident when we play and it helps me to know when to shoot.”

The Martlets’s crowd was loud and intense, at times making it hard for the players to hear each other, but the Stingers expected that. “We were prepared the same way we did for the other games,” Leclerc said. “We knew the crowd would be loud, but it’s an atmosphere we love to play in.”

With this win, the Stingers are now in second place in the RSEQ standings, behind the Université Laval Rouge et Or.

Men’s Game

The Stingers got back on the win column against the Redmen after losing their last game 85-68 on Nov. 15 against the Université de Québec à Montréal Citadins.

“It was that kind of game where I wanted to see how we were going to respond,” said Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic, who wanted a bounce-back effort from the loss. “We had some injuries, and now Sami Ghandour was back [for that game]. We didn’t have a great start, but I think we showed a lot of passion and we didn’t quit.”

The Stingers lost to the Redmen last March in the RSEQ final, and it was the first meeting since. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

In his first game back from an injury, Ghandour finished with nine points and nine rebounds. The Stingers scored 30 of the 47 points registered in the third quarter. Popovic said the Stingers’s defence made the difference in the second half.

“They turned the ball over, which allowed us better opportunities for easier shots, and made their defence scramble,” said Popovic about his defence.

Popovic added that his players really improved once they took the lead.

“We weren’t necessarily great in the first quarter,” Popovic said. “We missed some shots, and that’s why I think we were trailing that way. However, we really played better and consistent after.”

Stingers forward Olivier Simon led his team with 32 points, a career-high. He also finished the game with seven rebounds in 30 minutes of play. The forward credited his teammates for his performance.

“Those are team points,” Simon said. “We moved the ball well, and we knew what to do to win. Everyone contributed, so it’s a great team win.”

Simon said early wins in the season like this prove to the team what they are capable of. “We had a lot of difficulties against the Redmen in the last couple of years,” he said. “It’s a good team, but also a rival. It helps to build some confidence for the next games when we’ll face similar situations.”

Both teams play their next game on Nov. 24 against the Bishop’s Gaiters at the Concordia Gym. The women play at 2 p.m., and the men’s game is at 4 p.m.

Main photo by Gabe Chevalier.


Stingers split doubleheader against Rouge et Or in basketball season-opener

Cedrick Coriolan takes control in overtime to give win for men

Men’s game

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.”

Cedrick Coriolan (#8) took control in overtime to give the Stingers the win. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.
Women’s Game

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.

Guards Areej Burgonio (#15) and Caroline Task (#7) controlled much of the play for the Stingers. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

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.


New faces make both Stingers basketball teams competitive

Women heading into season ranked fourth in the country

The Concordia Stingers basketball team heads into the 2018-19 season with renewed confidence after going 9-1 in the preseason. U Sports also ranked them fourth in the top-10 ranking in the country on Oct. 30.

Playing against some serious competition from all conferences in Canada, the Stingers played well in the exhibition games and tournaments, winning the Concordia Classic tournament held Oct. 5 to 7.

Areej Burgonio is one of six new players on the women’s team. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Coming off a 4-12 2017-18 season, and having a record below .500 for the fourth consecutive season, head coach Tenicha Gittens believes the only way is up. With the addition of new recruits and the return of some veterans, this is a combination Gittens is confident about.

“As tough as our conference is, I have a lot of faith and trust in our girls and our coaching staff,” Gittens said. “They have the right focus and mentality.”

This season, the Stingers will see a number of new recruits from across North America, with coach Gittens praising them all. Nelly Owusu of Dawson College, Areej Burgonio of Crestwood Preparatory College in Toronto, Natalie Rae Jeanson of Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont., and Myriam Leclerc of Cégep Ste-Foy in Quebec City are the team’s new guards. Forwards Gretna-Olivia Inez of Champlain College and Ariel White Gill Bernards High School in New Jersey are also two new recruits.

“Bringing in the six new players, so far it’s worked out for us,” Gittens said. “It’s a testament of the work they put in during the offseason. They’ve been playing very well together, and they practice hard.”

Guard Caroline Task returns to the Stingers for her third year. She looks to build on her 15.2 points per game (PPG), which placed her at second in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) last season.

Forward Coralie Dumont debuts her second year with the Stingers and is looking to play as a force to be reckoned with after her outstanding rookie season. She had 11.1 PPG with an average of seven rebounds per game, and a field-goal percentage of 39.8, 10th in the RSEQ.

Along with Task and Dumont, Elise Roy, Sabrina Linéus, Aurélie d’Anjou Drouin, and Ladonna Lamonth are back with the team from last year’s roster.

“I still believe our conference is the strongest in the country,” Gittens said. “We’ve got to bring it every game. They’ll be prepared to go out there and execute and give themselves an opportunity to get a [a win] to reach our bigger picture.”

The Stingers women’s team is looking to win the first RSEQ title at Concordia since 1999.

Men’s team

The Concordia Stingers basketball team is looking to keep the momentum from last year going in the 2018-19 season. The team seeks to make the RSEQ final for a second year in a row, and win it this time.

Guard Adrian Armstrong is back for his fourth year with the Stingers. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

The preseason shed some light on some weaknesses for the men’s team, as they went 6-6 overall, but mainly against National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams and Canadian teams from coast to coast.

“We played a lot of games and a lot of guys stepped up while others struggled, but that’s the whole point of preseason,” said head coach Rastko Popovic. “[We had] a couple of decent wins, some losses we’d like to have back that were close, but the goal was to play good teams. These were the country’s top 10 teams.”

The Stingers ended last season with an 11-5 record en route to the playoffs, where they lost in the RSEQ final to the McGill Redmen. The men’s team have made the playoffs for eight years in a row, winning two RSEQ championships in 2011 and 2012.

There are six new players with the Stingers this season: Tariq Barki-Hamad of Central Tech High School in Toronto, Akim Olak from the London Basketball Academy, Maxime Bellony from Cégep de Thetford, Samuel Lessard from Collège Montmorency, Aleks Simeunovic from Impact Academy prep school, and Nathaniel Boisvert from Champlain College, Lennoxville.

Although last year’s top scorer, forward Ken Beaulieu, has graduated, guard Ricardo Monge enters his fifth and final year looking to carry momentum from last season. He averaged 11 PPG, with a 33.8 three-point percentage, and a league-leading 89.2 per cent from the free-throw line in the 2017-18 season.

Guard Garry Merisier is also entering his fifth and final year, while Adrian Armstrong and Cedrick Coriolan return for their fourth year on the team.

The new recruits and veterans are among the 16 on the initial roster for the season, which is likely set to change as the regular season progresses.

“Regular season is a different beast. Preseason is good to prepare and do stuff but now it’s real games that count,” Popovic said. “[We’re] looking forward to getting off to a good start.”

The season starts with a doubleheader on Nov. 8 at the Concordia gym. The women’s team plays at 6 p.m. and the men’s team at 8 p.m., both against the Université de Laval Rouge et Or.

Main photo by Mackenzie Lad.


Stingers coaches evaluate teams at Concordia Classic

Concordia hosts annual tournament ahead of season-opener on Nov. 8

The Concordia Stingers hosted the annual Concordia Classic Basketball Tournament this past weekend, from Oct. 5 to 7. Both the men’s and women’s Stingers teams played three games in preparation for the season-opener on Nov. 8.

In the men’s tournament, the University of Waterloo, Acadia University and the University of Regina played. There were also three teams, besides the Stingers on the women’s side: University of Prince Edward Island, Laurentian University and Memorial University.

Both the men’s and women’s Stingers teams won the round-robin tournament.

Rookies like Samuel Lessard (#13) will get a chance to prove themselves to coach Rastko Popovic. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

The Concordian spoke with Rastko Popovic, head coach of the men’s team and Tenicha Gittens of the women’s team before the tournament. Both coaches used the games to evaluate their rosters for the season.

“There’s a lot of different factors to deal with,” said Popovic regarding the initial roster for the tournament. “It’s an exhibition and non-conference game, so we’ll see what we can learn.”

Popovic also said he wanted first-years to get some playing time to evaluate them.

“For those first-year guys, you just expect them to go out there and play hard,” Popovic added. “They’re going to make mistakes but it’s important to get experience and playing time.”

On the women’s side, Gittens has been focused on defence during training camp, and that didn’t change this weekend.

“Right at this point, it’s the same approach as the summertime,” Gittens said. “It’s not the time already to revamp anything or scrap our whole [game plan]. Nothing is final for our lineup and the players have to prove to me they deserve to be there.”

Gittens also wanted to make sure her players used this tournament to feel comfortable at home, and as a way of preparing to defend their home court come the regular season.

“This is our house,” she said. “We have to win those games we’re supposed to win. We always talk about it, we have to protect our house.”

For the men’s team, Popovic was not able to use his full roster due to injuries that are already plaguing the lineup.

“We’re not going to be at full strength until around Christmas,” Popovic said. “We’ll have a much better idea then and be able to play some different lineups. It’ll definitely help us see where we stand before the season starts.”

Main photo by Alex Hutchins.

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