McGill Redmen basketball (12-3) took a swift 89-71 victory over the Bishop’s Gaiters (2-12) on Saturday Feb. 18, just days after clinching the top seed in the RSEQ playoffs. Prior to the game, the Redmen honoured their four graduating members–Jenning Leung, Michael Peterkin, Daniel Pieper, and Regis Ivaniukas–as part of Senior Day festivities.
As per usual, the Redmen jumped out with an early lead and never looked back. With an 18-point advantage at halftime, McGill continued to pile it on before Head Coach David DeAveiro went deep into his bench up 27 at the start of the fourth quarter.
With forward Francois Bourque recovering from a calf injury, graduating senior forward Pieper got the start in the final regular season home game of his career.
“It was special to share the starting lineup with my teammates for the first time,” Pieper said. “I appreciated every minute of the evening playing with the guys at home one last time.”
While Pieper did not play many minutes early in his career with the Redmen, he saw his role expand late this season as he grew into a contributor off the bench.
“Before coming to McGill, I thought I knew basketball,” Pieper said. “Once I joined the team, I realized I barely knew anything. The three years have taught me more about the game [than] I knew was possible.”
Forward Peterkin led the way for the Redmen, scoring 15 points with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Since beginning his career as a starter for the Redmen, Peterkin has become the key to McGill’s depth, accepting his new role as the team’s sixth-man.
“As long as we are winning games and improving as a team, I’m happy with whatever role allows me to be a part of that,” Peterkin said.
Coming off the bench has allowed Peterkin to grow with the Redmen. He’s currently fourth on the team in minutes per game and has become a key asset on both offence and defence.
“[Peterkin] just has a chance to take over a game [and] impose his will on people,” DeAveiro said. “He just knows he can make a difference in every game now and he plans to do that.”
Never one to hog the spotlight, the veteran forward took the opportunity to credit his teammates after his stellar performance.
“The great thing about our team is that night-in and night-out there are different scorers,” Peterkin said.
Point guard Leung finished his home career with 14 points and 7 assists against the Gaiters. Unlike Peterkin–who was thrown into the fire in his first season–Leung worked his way up from a walk-on freshmen who got almost no playing time to a second team all-star last season. He has now become one of McGill’s key players.
“I just got more comfortable on the team,” Leung said. “I learned a lot during my first and second year from the coaches and the players, just how to play under control, get to my spots, and understand what the coaches were looking for.”
Unable to play due to injury, the team also said goodbye to Ivaniukas. The senior guard took last season off and struggled with a shoulder injury this season limiting his playing time.
With one final game against Laval before their first round rematch against in the RSEQ Final Four, the team is just trying to stay healthy and enter the playoffs in full stride. If the Redmen manage to knock off Laval in the first round, this senior class will move on to their fourth consecutive RSEQ finals appearance.
“[Laval has] been struggling in the latter part of the season, but the playoffs is a different game,” Peterkin said. “They play very well against us.”
Despite an injury to starting Redmen point guard Kendrick Jolin, who will be out for the foreseeable future, this senior class looks poised to capture their third RSEQ championship in three years. If all goes according to plan, the team will head to the CIS national tournament on March 9 where these seniors have previously failed to advance past the first round.
“I think we’re right up there with some of the best teams in the country,” Leung said. “Especially with how we’re playing right now. Our team has really been clicking in the past few games and if we were to make it to nationals I’d say we have a good chance of making it over the hump.”
The Redmen finish up their regular season on Feb. 23 before they head to the RSEQ Final Four on March 3 and 4. If they’re able to capture another title, they’ll head out to Halifax for the CIS tournament.
While the team might be looking towards the CIS playoffs, Head Coach DeAveiro doesn’t want to jump ahead.
“We just try to win every game,” DeAveiro said. “One game at a time.”