Fourth-year guard Roya Assadi drives past the Bishop’s defence. (Alexandra Allaire / McGill Tribune)

Basketball: Martlets end losing skid at two

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6’1” sophomore Mariam Sylla posted 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for her seventh double-double this season in just 20 minutes to lead McGill to a 66-43 win over last-place Bishop’s at home on Thursday.

Sylla—the reigning CIS Player-of-the-Year—had help conquering the Gaiters as freshman forward Jennifer Silver emerged as a sparkplug with 11 points off the bench. Silver went an impressive five of six from the free throw line as McGill coasted in the final quarter.

Coming off a rough stretch in which the squad dropped its first two games of the season, Martlet Head Coach Ryan Thorne said his team was thinking solely about the future.

“It’s a different team [than last week],” Thorne explained. “We weren’t concerned and we went after them from the beginning. We knew what our issues were over our last couple of games and worked on them.”

The string of strong practices paid off for the Martlets as they led by as many as 29 points and had three players in double-digits. The story of the game was the lights-out perimeter shooting that sent dagger after dagger into the visitors’ defence.

“The plan was to play inside out,” said Sylla. “I tried to keep the ball deep in the paint and then kick it out to them; and when they’re knocking those shots down, [Bishop’s] is going to move out of the post, so we had a nice balance inside and out.”

After going a dismal five of 17 from three-point land in the first two quarters, the home team found their stroke, raining threes from all over the floor in the final two frames.

Of the Martlets’ 26 attempts from beyond the arc, none was more important than the backbreaker by Marie-Pier Bastrash, a 5’8” shooting guard from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.  With Bishop’s threatening to close the gap on a 9-0 run late in the second quarter, Bastrash stepped up and swished a three from the top of the key to squash any chance of a comeback.

Hustling down the floor after her shot, Bastrash picked off an errant pass by Bishop’s backup point guard Catherine Rondeau to set up another three—this time by third-year point guard Dianna Ros.

Ros, who had been sidelined for the past two games by a leg injury, contributed 16 minutes off the bench.

“She’s one of our top ball-handlers [and] she understands what I want, so to have her back was big,” Thorne said. “We got an extra shooter [and] an extra playmaker that we’ve been missing.”

In their own end, the Martlets played aggressive defence, disrupting the Gaiters’ attack by forcing heavily contested jump shots and shot clock violations on consecutive possessions.

“We know they like to penetrate, so we tried to get in the gaps and not let them get there,” Thorne said.

The Martlets dominated the boards all night, out-rebounding Bishop’s 51-39. However, according to Sylla, the key to the game was the Martlets’ ball security.

“[The] last few games, we were giving up a lot of turnovers. Tonight, we were able to run our offence and still take care of the ball,” she said.

Beyond cutting down on their turnovers, McGill was able to capitalize on sloppy play by the Gaiters, turning 16 steals into 20 quick points.

Following their win Thursday evening, McGill faced off against Bishop’s once again on Saturday and cruised to a 71-42 win in Mitchell Gym in Lennoxville. The Martlets were buoyed by Gabriela Hebert’s 16 points and 7 rebounds as they maintained their position atop the RSEQ. McGill’s next game is against UQAM on Thursday, Feb. 6 in Love Competition Hall at 6:00 p.m., in what will be a decisive match for first place in the conference. A loss for McGill would mean losing their uncontested hold on first place.