“We don’t like them and they’re probably not big fans of us either,” second-year swingman Michael Peterkin said after back-to-back wins against the pre-season conference favourite Bishop’s Gaiters. After the Dalhousie Rod Shoveller Tournament in Halifax, the Redmen returned from the winter break red-hot, ousting the Gaiters 78-71 at Love Competition Hall Thursday night. Two days later, the teams faced off again in Lennoxville, where a 62-59 victory spoiled the opening of Bishop’s’ new Mitchell Gym.
After opening the season with a nail-biting 60-59 loss to the Gaiters in November, the Redmen had revenge on their minds as they took the court to reclaim the top spot in the RSEQ standings.
“I think our guys were disappointed with the way the game finished the last time,” Head Coach David DeAverio said.
Once again, the Redmen jumped on top early, taking a 10-point lead into the halftime break, but Bishop’s came storming back in the third after a momentum altering alley-oop jam.
“We gave up 30 points in the third quarter,” DeAverio said. “Part of that’s because they’re a good team, [and] we knew they were going to make a run. We just didn’t think they were going to score 30 on us, but for our guys to respond in the fourth quarter and tighten up on defence after giving up 30 points showed a lot of character on their part.”
With the teams going basket for basket late in the game, senior forward and captain Vincent Dufort took control, connecting on back-to-back jumpers to reignite the Redmen offence and give McGill a four-point lead.
“That’s what [Dufort] has to do for us to be successful,” DeAverio said. “His leadership was evident on the floor tonight.”
Second-year centre François Bourque posted his second double-double of the year, while sophomore guards Dele Ogundokun and Peterkin combined for 21 points and eight rebounds. While Jenning Leung’s 12-point performance on Thursday night was impressive, it was on Saturday night that the McGill point guard really made a name for himself.
With time ticking down in the fourth quarter, Leung found himself open with the game on the line and sunk a game-winning three, silencing a crowd of 500 crazed Gaiters fans.
“We didn’t have a specific play,” Leung said. “We were just playing for a good look and [Ogundokun] found me for an open look, I knew time was running down so I took it, and it felt good.”
Leung and Ogundokun were hot all night, combining for 27-points on 41 per cent shooting. Dufort once again came up big for the Redmen, scoring six of his eight points in the second half, while registering a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Redmen seem to have found their point guard of the future in Leung, who has become the starter for McGill after taking over for senior Ave Bross in November.
“It feels really good, being able to contribute to the team’s success,” Leung said. “It’s what I’ve been working for [….] It was a main goal of mine after last season.”
The Redmen have a tough road ahead with back-to-back games against the top-ranked Laval Rouge et Or. Laval squeaked out an overtime victory last time against McGill, but the Redmen will look to continue their strong play against another tough opponent in order to take control of the RSEQ at the halfway point of the season. If the Redmen can stop the Rouge-et-Or’s sophmore guard Karl Bélanger-Demers, McGill should be able to take possession of first place in the RSEQ.