Silver finish

With Saturday’s loss to the Laval Rouge et Or in the QSSF championship game, the McGill women’s basketball team concluded a rollercoaster ride of a season. While a 13-15 overall record – McGill went 5-4 in non-conference play and finished 8-11 in Quebec competition – cannot be considered cause for celebration, the Martlets closed out the season competitively, and appear to have the pieces in place to become a force in the near future.

McGill’s postseason run served as an excellent indicator of the team’s multiple strengths and weaknesses. Last Wednesday, the Martlets scored an impressive 77-59 road win over the second-seeded UQAM Citadins. The sudden-death victory launched McGill into Saturday’s gold-medal game for the first time in 13 years. But the Martlets simply could not keep up with the bigger, more experienced home team, and the match ended in a 36-58 blowout.

Throughout the season, the Martlets lived and died by the three-point shot. More than a third of McGill’s field goals came from behind the arc, yet the team only connected on 30 per cent of their attempts from long range. In comparison, Laval and UQAM – the top two teams in Quebec – connected on a higher percentage of threes over the course of the season despite taking fewer shots. In Wednesday’s semifinal against the Citadins, the Martlets were masterful from the perimeter, shooting 45 per cent for the game. Four players reached double figures in scoring, and the team recorded 20 assists – 11 more than their season average.

While the Martlets used Wednesday’s game to show just how dangerous they can be when on target, Saturday’s championship match proved the exact opposite. McGill misfired on 17 of their 19 attempts from downtown, and wound up shooting a dismal 18 per cent overall for the game. The Martlets attempted to utilize star forward Anneth Him-Lazarenko in the post, but the talented sophomore’s offensive production was limited inside all game long.

Although McGill couldn’t quite pull off a fairy-tale finish to the regular season, Head Coach Ryan Thorne’s team has reason to be optimistic going forward. Freshman guard Marie-Eve Martin exhibited confidence and savvy far beyond her years, and joined Him-Lazarenko as the only other player to average double-figures in scoring. Fellow rookies Helene Bibeau and Francoise Charest were also impressive, and should improve dramatically before the start of next season.

With a go-to player in Him-Lazarenko, a confident shooter in Martin, and a cast of young, solid contributors, look for the Martlets to take a big step in league play next year. While the veteran leadership of seniors Nathifa Weekes and Stephanie Bergeron will be missed, the future for McGill women’s basketball is bright. A year from now, expect the Martlets to be coming off yet another title game, but this time, with a different result.

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