McGill bounced in QUBL semis

If there is one thing the McGill men’s basketball team made clear to spectators and scouts this year, it’s that the Redmen can play with anyone in Quebec. Stacked with young talent, the future of McGill’s men’s basketball program appears to be in good hands, and if Head Coach Craig Norman can figure out a way to get his team to perform with some consistency, the Redmen could be a force to be reckoned with as early as next season. Right now, however, Norman has little else to do but ponder the future, after his Redmen were bounced out of the first round of the QUBL playoffs on Saturday evening, losing 69-60 to the Laval Rouge et Or.

The Redmen outscored their opponents in the first, third, and fourth quarters, but were demolished in the second stanza as Laval turned up the defensive pressure to hold McGill to eight points. The Redmen shot a dismal 1-11 from three-point territory in the first half, and finished the game at less than a 20 per cent clip. McGill’s veterans failed to provide the offensive punch needed to make it to the gold-medal round, as scoring stalwarts Michael White, Matt Thornhill, and Pawel Herra combined to shoot 9-35 from the field.

Stepping up for the Redmen was American Winn Clark, who ended his impressive rookie campaign on a positive note, scoring 13 points and dishing out three assists. With newly announced Quebec Rookie of the Year Olivier Bouchard inactive for Saturday’s game, junior guard Sebastian Gatti manned the point and finished close to a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds. Despite Gatti’s contributions, McGill severely missed Bouchard’s speed, shooting, and all-around court-savvy. A highly touted recruit from College Montmorency, Bouchard’s impact on the team was immediate – he registered six points, four boards, and seven assists in his first university game, against the NCAA’s St. John’s Red Storm – and he figures to play a major part in the success of the program for years to come. Bouchard finished the year scoring a shade under 10 points per game, to go along with 3.7 assists while shooting 35 per cent from three.

The Redmen struggled during the preseason and dropped their first two contests in regular season play before picking up the pace late in the new year. McGill went on a tear to catapult themselves into playoff contention, winning six of seven from mid-January to February. Thornhill capped an illustrious career at McGill by taking home Player of the Year honours last week, after averaging 18.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, while ranking eighth in the CIS in three point field goal percentage.

Joining Thornhill and Bouchard as year-end award recipients was 6-foot-7 freshman Nic Langley, a Golden, B.C. product who spent time with Canada’s National Elite Development Academy and joined Bouchard on the all-rookie team.

With their eight regular season wins, the Redmen posted their best conference finish since the 2001-2002 season. Although McGill once again failed to impress in the postseason, the team’s development over the course of the season gives hope to Redmen fans looking forward. Norman has a plethora of talented athletes to work with next year, but still lacks an inside post presence. Nevertheless, the future is bright for the Redmen, and McGill fans can expect great things next season.

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