The Laval Rouge et Or defeated the UQAM Citadins on Saturday night, garnering their seventh consecutive provincial championship. The road to glory differed somewhat from what Laval is used to. Usually ranked first in the conference, Laval had to squeak into the playoffs with a 5-11 record this year. Their fourth place finish in the regular season marks the first time ever the lowest ranked QUBL seed has moved on to the national championship.
As for UQAM? This is the third time that they’ve lost in the finals, all of which have been to the Rouge et Or. They missed a very good opportunity to finally break the cycle last night, but the Rouge et Or were simply too good when it mattered most. The Citadins finished off the regular season with a 10-6 record and finished second in the conference, the same position they found themselves last year.
That’s the thing about sports. The regular season is only as good as your playoff berth. Those who succeed in the playoffs are often the ones who have the experience, the confidence, the swagger of knowing that they’re capable of being champions. Laval was always the dark horse because of how they looked on paper: perennial champions, a winning head coach in Linda Marquis, and a veteran center in Marie-Michelle Genois. This was a team that was used to not only winning, but winning championships. They peaked at the right time and reminded us all why they should never be counted out.
The Rouge et Or defeated the Citadins 75-62 on Saturday night the same way they beat McGill two nights earlier – stellar defence, a fast paced offense, and some timely three pointers. UQAM usually scores an average of 71.3 PPG, but Laval managed to frustrate UQAM's guards and force them to take shots they weren’t comfortable with. Laval has so much height down low with Genois and Julie Chapados that outside shooting becomes a crucial part of any team playing them. UQAM went 3-18 from beyond the arc when their average is usually 30.8%. Laval relied on their own outside shooting from Elyse Jobin, who went 5-9 form beyond the arc and finished up with 21 points. Laval’s height in the post is unmatched in the conference, and the leadership of center Marie-Michelle Genois is another intangible that Laval has over the competition. Genois has won the provincial championship every year she’s been on the team – the only player to hold that record in the QUBL.
UQAM came close to tying it up a couple of times in the fourth quarter, but Laval responded with threes each time the lead was cut down to single digits. The fast paced Laval offence continued to rely on Marjorie Ferland, a quick guard who pushes the ball beautifully up the court. The Laval press break continued to be very effective against UQAM and lead to many quick baskets on the fly. UQAM always had the worst defence in the league but made up for it on the offensive end. On Saturday, their lack of defence caught up to them as they allowed Laval to shoot 41.4% from the field. Even as they slowly started chipping away at the lead, they simply traded baskets with Laval and were unable to come up with stops on the defensive end.
The Rouge et Or now qualify for the CIS championship in Windsor, Ontario. Their 5-11 record will probably rank them last in the seeding, but this team can not be taken lightly. They have peaked at the right time and have all the momentum in their favour. The 2010-2011 RSEQ Champions have been crowned and it's only fitting that in a season that had everyone questioning them, the Rouge et Or have continued their dynasty.