After 15 years, Donald Love Competition Hall has finally seen its first capacity crowd. It may have been a long time coming, but both the Redmen and Martlets gave the sell out crowd of 872 exactly what they came to see, with big wins over conference rival Laval. Monika Fabian, president of Red Thunder, explained why the group hadn’t previously attempted to construct an event around a basketball game.
“It’s hard to organize an event around four hours of games,” said Fabian. “You have to dedicate your entire afternoon and evening to something like this. But I’m really glad it was as successful as it was.”
Led by Natalie Larocque, the Martlets exploited their wide array of offensive weapons to overcome Laval’s superior size and get the 65-58 win.
Larocque had 21 points, Anneth Him-Lazarenko had 13 along with 11 rebounds, and Marie-Eve Martin scored 11 on eight shots.
Laval, who had a five game losing streak earlier this year, have turned their season around, winning four of their last six. Their two losses come against McGill who, at 10-1, are first in the Quebec conference.
It’s looking more and more likely that the McGill-Laval matchup will happen again, in the playoffs, with Laval the dark horse no one wants to face in the first round.
“I have no idea [what changed for Laval],” said Martin. “I don’t understand their situation but they seem to be stronger now than at the beginning of the season, so we definitely should not take them lightly.”
With the end of the regular season only five games away, the Marlets are looking to improve every time they’re on the court, and are simultaneously charging hard toward the goals they set at the beginning of the year.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet, but we could hit our first [goal] of the season if we clinch first place,” said Head Coach Ryan Thorne. “The second was to win the conference playoffs, and the third was to make some noise in the CIS Championships.”
Realizing the first goal would certainly be an important step towards accomplishing the other two.
“We want to finish first so that everything’s at home and we have the fans on our side,” said Martin. “It always helps to have fans screaming at the other team.”
Added Natalie Larocque, “When I played in the States it was the exact same feeling, that your fans are behind you, and it’s a lot of fun.”
The Redmen stepped up to win 85-83 against the number eight ranked Rouge-et-Or despite a bad night on the offensive end from leading scorer Simone Bibeau. Bibeau shot two for 15 overall and one for nine on three-pointers.
Still, Head Coach David DeAveiro was quick to point out that, “If he doesn’t make that one three-point shot, then we don’t win. So that one that he made was a big one.”
Picking up the scoring load for the Redmen were Olivier Bouchard with 21, Kyle Bernard with 12, and Greg Gause and Winn Clark with 11 apiece.
The ball was shared equally as nine players finished with at least five points.
Six-foot-eight center Greg Gause got himself involved all over the stat sheet with five blocks, six rebounds (three offensive), a pair of assists, and a three-pointer.
“I think I caused some matchup problems with other big men because I can take it outside a little so I think that helps us,” said Gause. “If it’s a guy [guarding me that] I feel like I can take in the post, I take him in the post, if it’s a guy I think is stronger than me I take him outside.”
The win was a crucial one in what’s shaping up to be an intense battle for home court in the playoffs between Laval, Concordia, and McGill. Currently, Laval is first in the Quebec conference with 18 points (nine wins), but Concordia is only two points back, with McGill another win behind Concordia.
“Our goal is to host a playoff game this year,” said DeAveiro. “The thing for us is to hopefully get a crowd like [Friday] for all our home games and build that spirit and sense of pride for McGill.”
McGill could end up playing Laval again in the playoffs. If the Redmen get home court DeAveiro is hoping for a similar student response to Friday’s Pack the House game, especially from the hecklers.
“[I]f you make a mistake the student body’s going to give it to you, right?” asked DeAveiro. “[Laval’s point guard Xavier] Baribeau’s a very good player who played a lot of minutes and got worn down a little bit, so a little credit goes to our defense and the guys that guard him. But for sure the fans make a big difference. Nobody wants to hear the chant ‘airball’ after they miss a shot.”
Baribeau shot an airball with 1:30 left in the third quarter and was serenaded by a loud McGill crowd for the rest of the game every time he touched the ball. From that point on, he had one rebound, one steal, three turnovers, shot zero for three from the field, and bricked two free throws.
Bouchard and Bibeau put the last touches on the victory by sinking free throws down the stretch.