Marie-Pier Bastrash looks for an opening. (Remi Lu / McGill Tribune)

Basketball: Martlets marred by early mistakes

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Injuries can hamstring even the best of teams. Just ask the McGill Martlets (6-2), who dropped two straight games against the Concordia Stingers (7-3) this past week. The Martlets entered the two contests without starting guards Dianna Ros and Francoise Charest, both of whom were sidelined with lower body injuries. Without the steadying presence of their starting backcourt, the Martlets dropped their game at Concordia on Thursday, losing 63-53. Two days later, McGill hosted the Stingers for McGill Athletics’ annual Shoot for the Cure game. Despite a thrilling comeback sequence, the Martlets could not close out the game for the victory, recording a narrow loss of 49-47.

The absence of Ros and Charest was notable from the opening tip Saturday evening, as the Martlets committed seven turnovers in the first quarter. Starting in place for the injured Charest was rookie guard Carolann Cloutier, who finished with two points and three assists in 34 minutes. While Cloutier appeared capable of directing the offence, the Martlets had trouble penetrating the paint, shooting a paltry 25 per cent from the field by the end of the second quarter. McGill’s sloppy play continued to close out the half, and the home team headed into the locker room with a four-point deficit, 21-17.

“I thought we were undisciplined,” Head Coach Ryan Thorne said. “We had 15 turnovers in the first half. We had 30 last game. You can’t beat a team when you have that many turnovers. Our lack of discipline really hurt us down the stretch.”

The Martlets looked like a different team as they hustled out of halftime, diving for loose balls and forcing Concordia turnovers. However, the energy was short-lived as McGill slipped back into its careless habits, with haphazard passes punctuated by travelling violations. Mirroring the stop-and-go play of the Martlets was the minutes-total of sophomore star Mariam Sylla. Despite being the best player on the floor, Sylla played only 24 minutes—just the fourth-highest on the team.

“[Sylla] wasn’t in the game for most of it because she was in foul trouble,” Thorne said. “She was being undisciplined—she was reaching, and doing things that we talked about not doing.”

(Remi Lu / McGill Tribune)
(Remi Lu / McGill Tribune)

In contrast to the disappointing effort by McGill in the first three quarters, the Stingers played tenacious basketball—it was clear that Concordia’s half-court defence was key in limiting the Martlets’ ball movement. Concordia managed to continue its momentum late into the game, leading the Martlets by 14 points with two-and-a-half minutes to go in the fourth-quarter. After a time-out by Thorne, however, McGill roared back with veteran Helene Bibeau netting a three-pointer and Sylla  finally looking like her usual self. With less than two minutes left in the game, Sylla staggered the Stingers in consecutive plays, scoring 11 points in a minute and a half to bring McGill within one-point. With six seconds left on the clock, sophomore guard Marie-Pier Bastrash was fouled, netting a free-throw to tie the game at 47. However, on the next possession, Sylla fouled Concordia guard Kaylah Barrett, who made two free throws to ice the game at 49-47.

Thorne was visibly upset with his team after the game, citing a lack of effort and consistency despite the near-comeback.

“That hustle came way too late,” he said. “Why do we [only] have effort at the end? It doesn’t make sense to me. We’re undisciplined the whole game, and now we want to fight the enemy. And I’m not going to pat anyone on the back because we got it close. We didn’t do that at the beginning […. It was] too late, and the result shows.”

The Martlets will look to bounce back against Bishop’s University on Thursday, Jan. 30. The game will take place at Love Competition Hall at 6:00 p.m.