Although it was a historic season for the McGill Martlets, it was ultimately not a perfect one. This past Sunday, the top-ranked Windsor Lancers defeated McGill 60-47 for their fifth straight CIS Championship under McGill alumnus Chantal Valée.
The Martlets recorded their best finish at the CIS Championships since they won bronze back in 1996. They were also the first RSEQ team since 2002 to play for the Bronze Baby Trophy.
McGill displayed the same tenacity in the final that characterized its play throughout the playoffs. The Martlets’ frontcourt effectively matched Windsor’s all game, outrebounding the Lancers 37-34 and forcing 16 turnovers. Junior forward Mariam Sylla led the way for the Martlets with a double-double, and senior forward Gabriela Hebert pulled down 10 boards.
They fell behind 21-10 by the end of the first quarter, but reduced the deficit to eight points at the half, and closed to within two points in the third. In the end, however, Windsor was able to weather the Martlet surge over the final quarter to take the game and the title. The Lancers were led by CIS Defensive Player-of-the-Year Korissa Williams, who posted a stunning stat line with 21 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and six steals.
“We knew it was going to be a grind,” Martlets Head Coach Ryan Thorne said. “Their experience and their discipline came through and I think that was the difference in the game.”
The Martlets came out cold, and ultimately, it was a poor team shooting performance that hamstrung McGill. While Windsor shot a below-average 37 per cent from the field, it was more than enough to edge the Martlets, who made just 26.4 per cent of their 72 shots.
“We shot well all season, [but] one bounce can decide a game and it wasn’t our game,” Thorne said.
McGill had a wild ride to get to their first gold-medal game ever. On Thursday, they defeated the Saint Mary’s Huskies 67-59 on the back of a strong defensive effort. Hebert recorded 19 points and 12 rebounds and the team shot 91 per cent from the free throw line to advance to the semifinal game against perennial powerhouse UBC.
Against UBC, the Martlets needed an overtime period, but came away with a thrilling 59-57 victory to clinch a spot in the finals. Senior point guard Dianna Ros sunk the game winning free throws, and McGill kept the Huskies from scoring to seal the win.
In his 12 seasons coaching the Martlet basketball squad, Thorne has overseen a transformation marked by consistent, yearly improvement of the program. His high standards helped the Martlets develop into a tough team with the tools to compete with anyone. Thorne also endured seven losing seasons before winning five consecutive RSEQ Championships. This year, he was excited to make it to the title game. Next year, he expects that his team will win it all.