[Ed. note: John, previously the sports information officer at Bishop's and Queen's universities, joins us to cover news from Quebec and elsewhere. His first piece here looks at the RSEQ basketball semifinals. -RP]
It was a sweep by all four home teams on Wednesday night in the Quebec basketball semifinals, setting up a championship doubleheader at McGill on Saturday. On the women’s side, the Concordia Stingers held off the UQAM Citadins 65-62 while McGill eased past Laval 54-47. In the men’s semifinals, Bishop’s dropped the Stingers 70-63 and will face the Redmen, who had little trouble with the Citadins, winning 72-43.
WOMEN’S SEMIFINAL #1 – McGILL 54, LAVAL 47
In the first women’s semifinal, the McGill Martlets got a late scare from the fourth-seeded Laval Rouge et Or, but survived to advance to the league championship game after a defensive struggle in Montreal.
The Martlets led through most of the contest, but were never able to put Laval completely away. The Rouge et Or tied the game at 41-41 very early in the fourth quarter, but McGill responded with a 6-0 run to foil the visitors’ upset bid as they held Laval to only six points through the last 9:30 of the game.
Rookie Marie-Pier Bastrash led the Martlets (19-9 CIS, 13-3) with ten points, while Mariam Sylla and Dianna Ros scored nine. Sylla, the conference rookie of the year, also grabbed a game-high ten rebounds.
Laval (14-13 CIS, 8-8) was led by 11 points each from Elyse Jobin and Gabrielle Girard.
McGill advanced despite shooting only 28% from the field. They held Laval to 34% overall, and outrebounded the Rouge et Or 41-31.
WOMEN’S SEMIFINAL #2 – CONCORDIA 65, UQAM 62
Concordia led by as many as 18 points, but had to hold off a late UQAM comeback attempt to escape with a 65-62 win at the always-cozy Concordia Gym.
The Stingers led 54-36 with two minutes left in the third, and appeared to be cruising to their second straight championship appearance, however the Citadins went on a 12-0 run over 3:16 early in the fourth quarter to get to within four points at 56-52. A three-pointer by Camille Michaud brought UQAM to within two points at 62-60 with 90 seconds left, but a triple by Ashley Clarke clinched the win for the Stingers.
Kaylah Barrett, the conference player of the year, led the Stingers (21-11 CIS, 11-5) with 17 points, while Richelle Gregoire had 15 points and Tina Mpondani had ten. Clarke had nine points, all on three-pointers.
UQAM (11-15 CIS, 8-8) was led by Michaud, who scored 18 points. Valerie Gauvin added 16, while Emie Simard and Quételine Celestin had 11 each.
Concordia shot only 28% from the field, but attempted 21 more shots than the Citadins did, 74-53. While the rebounds were even overall, Concordia did grab 22 offensive boards.
The final, set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at McGill is a rematch of last year’s league championship, which McGill won 56-49. Concordia last won the league crown in 1999.
MEN’S SEMIFINAL #1 – McGill 72, UQAM 43
UQAM kept it close early, but were eventually overwhelmed by the top-seeded (and CIS No. 10) Redmen, who advanced to the league’s championship for the first time since 2002. Vincent Dufort had a double-double for McGill with 16 points and ten rebounds, while Adrian Hynes-Guery scored a game-high 24 points. The only other Redmen in double figures was Winn Clark, who had ten.
For UQAM (11-19 CIS, 6-10), Alexandre Bernard had 14 points and eight rebounds, while Vincent Lanctôt-Fortier had nine points.
McGill (20-7 CIS, 11-5) led 18-15 after the first quarter, and UQAM briefly took a 22-21 lead early in the second. However, the Redmen held UQAM to only one field goal in the final 6:30 of the half and took a 34-25 halftime lead. The hosts took complete control in the third quarter, holding UQAM to only seven points and opening up a 19-point edge.
McGill shot 38% from the field and held UQAM to 31% shooting. The Redmen were strong from outside, hitting 8 of 19 from downtown, while UQAM — never a strong three-point team — went 2 for 13. McGill outrebounded UQAM 41-30.
MEN’S SEMIFINAL #2 – Bishop’s 70, Concordia 63.
The Gaiters used a balanced attack to pick up their first playoff win since 2004, with four players in double figures. Mike Andrews, who was named the league’s player of the year earlier in the day, and all-rookie team member Jonathan Bermillo each came off the bench to score 14 points and lead Bishop’s (18-8 CIS, 10-6 Quebec). Fifth-year forward Tim Hunter scored 13 points, while Onnex Blackwood added 12.
For Concordia (14-11 CIS, 9-7 Quebec), Kyle Desmarais scored 21 points in 37 minutes, with Jerome Blake and Morgan Tajfel adding 11 each.
Bishop’s led 37-33 at halftime and 49-48 after three quarters in a game that featured eight ties and seven lead changes. After Desmarais tied the game at 51-51 early in the fourth, a 9-3 Gaiters run put the game away, sending Bishop’s to McGill for Saturday’s league championship.
Bishop’s shot 39% from the field, and held Concordia to only 31%. Both teams struggled from outside the arc, with Concordia going 7-for-26, and Bishop’s hitting only 3 of 14 three-point attempts.
Whichever way Saturday’s final goes, a long championship drought will come to an end. Bishop’s has not won the conference title since 1999, the last of three straight league crowns, while McGill is hoping to win their first crown since 1986. The two teams split their four meetings this year, and split the pair of games in Montreal. The final is set for Saturday at 5 p.m. at McGill.