RSEQ Player-of-the-Year Vincent Dufort rises to the rim. (Laurie-Anne Benoit / McGill Tribune)

Basketball: Redmen repeat as RSEQ champions

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After taking down the Laval Rouge et Or with a 80-62 victory in Saturday’s RSEQ semifinal game, the McGill Redmen moved on to face the conference pre-season favourite Bishop’s Gaiters in the RSEQ Championship for the second consecutive season. Contrary to last season, which came down to late game heroics from now-graduated guard Adrian Hynes-Guery, the Redmen started the game hot and didn’t let up as they trounced the Gaiters 73-47.

Fresh off of winning RSEQ Player-of-the-Year honours, third-year shooting guard Vincent Dufort refused to let an injured ankle slow him down, dropping a game-high 18 points. The 6’4” physical education major nailed four-of-five three-pointers en route to capturing Player-of-the-Game honours.

“[When we face] Bishop’s I have the advantage on the perimeter against their big post players,” Dufort said. “They take chances on leaving me open at the three-point line, and today I was fortunate enough to be able to make [the shots].”

Dufort’s co-captain Simon Bibeau finished his spectacular RSEQ career as a two-time champion. Though Bibeau’s  time is coming to a close, the Redmen program revival that he initiated is in full swing. With an astonishing nine freshmen having played a role in the squad’s great season, the future looks bright.

“Playoff games are [very] different than regular season games in terms of intensity,” Dufort said. “For the freshmen to come in and play the way they did in that type of atmosphere is amazing. We have a very special group of guys. Every single guy stepped up and played a big part this weekend.”

Freshman forward Francois Bourque finished his RSEQ season with his sixth double-double as he registered 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Bourque has dominated all season, often operating as the team’s lone interior threat. However, it was his teammate Dele Ogundokun who took home the RSEQ Rookie-of-the-Year award before the tournament.

“It is an honour to win the award, but none of it could have been possible without my teammates and coaching staff,” Ogundokun said. “As a team, we are always pushing each other to get better and strive for greatness.”

While the Redmen offence showed no mercy against Laval or Bishop’s by scoring 82 and 73 points respectively, it was McGill’s defence that sealed the team’s championship.

Redmen Head Coach David DeAveiro has emphasized defensive intensity all season, with the game against the Gaiters serving as the culmination of the team’s hard work throughout the year. Bishop’s scored a season-low 47 points, including two quarters in whch the Redmen held their opponents under double-digits.

“We have our defensive principles that we stick to, but what it really came down to was trust, effort, and who wanted it more,” Dufort said. “It took an entire team effort as opposed to just a couple of guys playing good defence.”

The team now heads out to Ottawa for the CIS National Championship tournament, which the hometown Gee-Gees enter as the no. 1 seed having upset the Carleton Ravens in the OUA Finals. McGill will take on a tough Victoria Vikesteam in the first round, who will be looking to bounce back after a close loss to Alberta in the Canada West Finals.

The Redmen took down the Vikings 80-68 in last season’s CIS tournament to capture fifth place, but are looking to improve upon last year’s finish. Coach DeAveiro lost seven players from that squad—including three starters; but his Redmen have not missed a beat. The team now has its eyes set on bringing home McGill’s first national championship.

“This weekend, our goal is to win the national title,” Dufort said. “Anything short of that will be a disappointment.”