It was an emotional start to the season: In a tough championship final rematch on Nov. 4, the McGill Martlets basketball team (0-1)—top-ranked defending national champions—fell to L’Université Laval Rouge et Or (1-0), 58-50 in their RSEQ regular season opener at Love Competition Hall. At the start of the game, the Martlets stood with their arms interlinked for the banner-raising ceremony for the prior season’s U Sports Women’s Basketball Championship—the first national championship title in team history.
Finishing with an 8-2 record, the champs looked sharp in the preseason, outscoring their opponents by more than 14 points per game. The Martlets hoped that they would not succumb to the slow start that had plagued their previous season. This would prove a difficult challenge against a Laval team looking to avenge last season’s championship loss, and fueled by a stifling full-court press.
The McGill faithful erupted early after the Martlets opened up the game’s scoring with their first shot, but poor shooting kept them from pulling away, and the lead changed 15 times during the game. The teams stayed within five points of each other through the first half. The Martlets entered the locker room with a 29-28 advantage, propelled by 10 points and six rebounds from fifth-year centre Alex Kiss-Rusk. The third quarter saw a quicker pace and some sloppy play from both teams that ended with the Martlets still holding onto a one-point lead, 45-44.
With Kiss-Rusk on the bench to start, the Martlets’ shooting woes caught up with them in the final quarter as they were held off the scoreboard until there were only three minutes left in the game. Laval’s lead grew to 11 points, as the Rouge et Or had McGill on the ropes.
However, fifth-year guard Frederique Potvin gave the Martlets new life with a driving layup that ended the drought. Potvin soon grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, leading to a layup by fourth-year wing Marie-Love Michel, which cut the lead to two possessions. However, with a minute to go, Laval hit a mid-range jumper, a dagger that put the game out of reach.
Following the loss, the Martlets turned their focus toward improving for future games.
“We want to make sure we take care of the little things we can control,” Potvin said. “Long and short safety, three people going to the board. And also we’ve got to hit some shots.”
McGill sank less than a third of their shots from the field, which understandably frustrated the team.
“We’ve got to stop settling for shots.” Kiss-Rusk said. “We were settling for some tough ones at times, which obviously makes it harder for them to go in.”
Despite the pre-game banner raising ceremony, Head Coach Ryan Thorne stressed the need for the Martlets to improve every game and not rest on last year’s success.
“If we can get better every game, then what happens at the end will take care of itself.” Thorne said.
The Martlets next home game is scheduled for Nov. 18, when McGill hosts the cross-town rival Concordia Stingers.
Moment of the Game
Love Competition Hall, packed with fans eager to celebrate their championship team, was quick to erupt as the Martlets won the opening tip and scored first on strong ball movement that culminated in a three-pointer by third-year guard Geraldine Cabillo-Abante.
“Last year is last year. We aren’t trying to measure ourselves based on last year.” – McGill Head Coach Ryan Thorne
The Martlets couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting 17-56 from the field (30 per cent) and 4-22 from three (18 per cent).