It was too little too late for the McGill Redmen on their quest for their third straight RSEQ Championship. After trouncing the fourth-seeded Concordia Stingers 74-60 on Friday night, the Redmen faced off against the third-seeded Bishop’s Gaiters in the RSEQ Finals in front of Bishop’s home crowd. The Gaiters were looking to “exorcise their McGill demons,” as the Bishop’s commentator repeatedly explained, after watching his team fall to McGill in back-to-back championship games over the past two seasons. This time, the veteran Gaiters squad came out firing, downing McGill 68-63 and moving on to the CIS Championships.
McGill started hot against Concordia in the semifinals, jumping out to a 25-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Redmen upped their lead to 22 in the third on a red-hot 53 per cent shooting percentage in the second half. Second-year forward Michael Peterkin led the way for the Redmen, scoring 16 points while shooting 70 per cent from the floor.
“I just played with confidence and a lot of emotion,” Peterkin said. “I wanted to help my team out in any way I could.”
Senior guard Ave Bross logged significant minutes off the bench, recording 10 points and eight boards–just two rebounds shy of what would have been his first career double-double. RSEQ Defensive-Player-of-the-Year Dele Ogundokun recorded 14 points and a pair of steals, while second-year guard Jenning Leung finished in double-digits with a 10-point game.
Unfortunately for McGill, the fun didn’t last long. In the final, the Redmen started slow against the Gaiters, shooting 39 per cent from the field and a pitiful 12.5 per cent from behind the arc in the first half. Bishop’s took advantage, connecting on 56 per cent of their shots, including four from deep, to grab an eight-point lead heading into the half.
The Gaiters stretched their lead to 20 late in the third before the Redmen came storming back on a 25-5 run to tie the game up at 60.
“We knew if we got it close in the fourth, we would have a chance to win,” RSEQ Rookie-of-the-Year Noah Daoust said. “We kept our focus and believed in our abilities.”
Daoust finished off his impressive rookie campaign with 17 points off the bench for the Redmen, including a big three-pointer to tie the game up at 63.
McGill regained the ball down by three with 40 seconds left. Although it’s tough to doubt the game-time decisions of two-time RSEQ Coach-of-the-Year David DeAveiro, it was strange to see two of McGill’s best three-point shooters, Thomas Lacy (33 per cent) and Regis Ivaniukas (31 per cent), on the bench for that possession. DeAveiro decided to play four of his five starters and replace struggling centre Francois Bourque with the red-hot Daoust in the final seconds.
“I ended up getting a pass from [Leung] for an open shot at the top of the key,” fourth-year captain Vincent Dufort said. “[I] thought about shooting before I caught the ball and ended up fumbling [it]. [The ball] happened to go to [Daoust], and he had to take a contested shot. It was an unfortunate outcome, but you have to give the Gaiters credit.”
Bishop’s grabbed the rebound and added a pair of free throws to close out the game.
The majority of the Redmen team is expected to return next year, including all five starters. While the loss to Bishop’s will be tough to accept right now, expect the Redmen to bounce back and make some noise in the CIS tournament next season.
“Seeing Bishop’s hoist the championship was tough to watch,” Peterkin said. “It will motivate us to come back and unleash havoc on the conference and the rest of the nation next season.”