(Laurie-Anne Benoit / McGill Tribune)

Martlets defence suffocates Stingers

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The McGill Martlets stormed Love Competition Hall for their home opener against the Concordia Stingers on Nov. 21. McGill looked to extend its undefeated start and its nine-game winning streak against the Stingers. The Martlets did not fail to impress, and stuck with their game plan to beat Concordia in a decisive 44-34 victory.

The team came out strong from the tip-off. McGill immediately looked to feed the post down low, as the Martlets took advantage of their height to score easy points in the paint and  make their way to the free-throw line early in the game. More important, however, was McGill’s stifling, aggressive defence. The Martlets forced a shot clock violation on the Stingers’ first offensive trip of the game, and proceeded to force Concordia to shoot 16.7 per cent from the field for the first half.

The home team’s aggressive play masked its own shooting deficiencies in the first half. McGill shot a measly 23.5 per cent from the field through the first two quarters, and only scored 20 points in the first 20 minutes of play. However, this was enough to get by in the first half as the Stingers netted a mere 16 points. The Martlets’ defence kept them in the game by clogging up the middle and forcing the Stingers into turnovers and ill-advised shots. Sophomore forward and reigning CIS Rookie-of-the-Year Mariam Sylla was the lynchpin of the stout defensive showing. She denied any easy lay-ups and cleaned the glass all night en route to 11 rebounds at the end of the game.

The second half mirrored the first, as both teams continued to struggle from the perimeter. However, McGill’s persistence in getting to the free-throw line paid dividends. By the end of the game, the Martlets had shot twice as many free throws as Concordia, finishing 11-16 from the line. Both Sylla and senior point guard Francoise Charest finished with 11 points to lead the team.

With another win in the books, the Martlets are 3-0 in season play. The only cause for concern right now is their shooting woes. Following the game, Martlet Head Coach Ryan Thorne reflected on his offensive weaknesses.

“I expect we should be more efficient offensively,” Thorne said. “We have the experience., we [just aren’t] coming together. It’s probably coaching, and we need to tweak some things and get players [in] better places [to score].”

The Martlets have a long way to go if they wish to fully realize their potential. A third straight RSEQ Championship is a very attainable goal, but a medal at CIS Nationals will require consistent improvement. McGill’s defence has kept it afloat as the team has only lost one game to CIS opponents all year, but the squad needs to focus on getting its offence up to par.

“It was good to get the win,” Thorne said. “It is what we are trying to do; but the big thing here is we should be trying to do better. I am not sure if we got better from this game.”

The Martlets look to continue their streak against Bishop’s on Nov. 28 at Love Competition Hall before traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada for the Frontier College Las Vegas Shootout over the winter holiday.