A winning culture. This is the phrase that motivates athletes to play their hearts out, and the three words that athletic departments live and die for. Simon Bibeau has been the physical manifestation of that culture for the McGill Redmen the last four years, having led the team to three straight playoff appearances—bringing the school back to relevance again in a tough conference. Bibeau’s last home game for McGill took place this past Thursday at Love Competition Hall in a 69-67 victory over the UQAM Citadins, where he led the team in a signature performance with 19 points.
Bibeau wasted no time getting involved, nailing two quick three-pointers and masterfully orchestrating the offence to a 21-13 first-quarter advantage. Rookies Francois Bourque, Thomas Lacy, and Dele Ogundokun played key roles as well, posting six, five, and five points respectively by the end of the first half. McGill looked to be playing at its finest, moving the ball with purpose and penetrating the paint with ease to enter halftime with a 37-31 advantage.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” Head Coach David DeAveiro said. “We were rebounding well [….] I think we’re the best three-point shooting team in our conference. So that helps us—when we need a bucket, sometimes we can knock a three down.”
A scrappy third-quarter carried into the last frame, with UQAM fighting back thanks to the play of Richard Addai and Alexandre Bernard. Addai, who finished the game with 24 points, nearly ruined the night’s send-off for Bibeau, as he nailed a three-pointer with 4:48 left in the game to help UQAM take the lead at 62-61. With the crowd of over 200 on its feet, Bourque nailed a jumper with 1:48 remaining to give McGill a three point lead. However, Bernard silenced the stands with a jumper seconds later, trimming the lead to just one point.
With just 13 seconds remaining in the game, Bernard fouled Bibeau, sending the Redmen’s marquee player to the free-throw line. In the last home game of his career, Bibeau sealed his legacy by netting the game-winning free-throw.
“The one thing about [Bibeau] that I’ve learned is that in situations like this, he shows up—he’s at his best,” DeAveiro said. “He loves the stage; he loves the spotlight.”
Four years ago, DeAveiro and Bibeau both joined the Redmen in the hopes of bringing a winning culture to McGill’s basketball program. It is clear that they have succeeded. Bibeau has been the key to that turnaround, with his presence attracting further top-recruits to the program.
“When you come in and you take over a program, you try and find that one guy who’s going to give your program an identity,” DeAveiro said. “Getting [Bibeau] coming out of CEGEP—you were getting the best player in Quebec. And that was a statement, that [said,] ‘Hey, the best players in Quebec want to come play at McGill.’ So getting [Bibeau] was big for us in terms of establishing some credibility in our program and for the rest of the kids in Quebec.”
The senior point guard’s time at McGill has created lifelong memories and unparalleled experiences.
“[McGill has] meant a huge development for me as an athlete, as a person, as a student,” Bibeau said. “It’s been beyond what I had expected. A lot of obstacles, roadblocks, challenges, but I could not have asked for a better university experience.”
Next up for the Redmen are the Laval Rouge et Or in the RSEQ semifinals. Despite Laval’s lethargic six wins, McGill will have to be at the top of its game in the sudden death format of the playoffs, as the Rouge et Or have the luxury of hosting the game. McGill begins their quest for back-to-back RSEQ Championships on Mar. 1 at 7:00 p.m. at Centre PEPS in Quebec City.