Stingers Sweep Home Openers
Men Win Despite Laroche Benching
Sporting his headphones and a focused look while preparing for his team’s home opener against the Laval Rouge et Or last Thursday, last year’s league MVP Evens Laroche had no idea he was about to be benched.
Not for being injured, not for being suspended, but for—of all things—being late for practice.
“I was excited about starting the game. It personally affected me when I learned that I wasn’t part of the starting line-up,” said Laroche, who scored 13 points after making his entrance in the game.
“Coach wanted to make the statement that even if you’re an all-Canadian or an MVP, if you’re late to practices, you’ll pay for it,” he explained. “We practice five times a week; I was late twice this week, but it won’t happen again.”
It’s not often a Canadian Interuniversity Sport coach benches last year’s MVP to start his team’s home opener.
It’s even less often that he does so and wins.
But last Thursday, the Concordia Stingers’ men’s basketball team head coach John Dore did just that, leading his team to a 90-62 victory over the Laval Rouge et Or.
Few coaches might ever consider doing the same, but Dore isn’t your average coach. Now in his 25th season with the Stingers and coming off a 2011 Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec championship, Dore knows how to win without key players.
He proved that once again last Thursday, missing not only Laroche to start the game but also left without guard Kyle Desmarais, who is gone until January due to an injury.
Along with the graduation of forward James Clark and point guard Decee Krah prior to the season, Dore found himself with a big void on his team’s roster.
But that void has been filled almost seamlessly by a host of other players, starting with fourth-year forward Taylor Garner, who is back from injury. The 6’7” centre played 12 minutes, scored four points and got two rebounds Thursday.
Fifth-year forward Kafil Eyitayo had a great performance as well, scoring 16 points and dominating the rim with 15 rebounds.
“Kafil played like a monster,” said Laroche.
First-year guard Adam Chmielewski added to the tally with eight points and six assists of his own in over 30 minutes of play.
“I’m just trying to be a leader,” said the two-time CEGEP all-star. “Kyle [Desmarais] is out and I’m just trying to fill that void and to be a good point guard.”
That, and help lead his team back to the postseason.
“We got to win the provincial championship,” he said. “It’s gonna be difficult because teams are getting better.”
And if they succeed?
“We have to take the next step by winning a game at nationals,” he said.
They’re on the right track; they followed up their dismantling of Laval by pulling off a 77-76 victory over the Bishop’s Gaiters last Saturday to extend their record to 3-0.
Next, the Stingers will host the McGill Redmen on Nov. 24. Tipoff is at 4:00 p.m.
“We went away from our game plan too much today. The goal is to play at a certain level for 40 minutes—not five minutes on, five minutes off.”
—Keith Pruden, Women’s Basketball Head Coach
Women Avoid Collapse Against Laval
Leading the Laval Rouge et Or 59-58 with a minute left in the game, the Concordia crowd was worried. You could hear it in their silence.
It was hard to imagine that, just a few minutes prior, Concordia’s women’s basketball team was cruising with a 10-point lead.
But now, with 58 seconds left on the clock, the Stingers needed someone—anyone—to save them from an embarrassing home opener collapse.
That’s when point guard Ashley Clarke answered the call, scoring what would be the game-winning jump shot to give her side a three-point lead en route to a a 64-58 Stingers victory.
“At the end of the game it was pretty rough, as we had key players on the bench and these key players we need them at all time on the court,” said Clarke.
Just like their season opener, nothing seemed to be working for the Stingers in those last and crucial moments of the game’s fourth quarter. Piling up fouls and turnovers, the Stingers had lost momentum and looked destined for their first loss of the season.
Then, Clarke made the play of the game. At the baseline with the ball in her hands, she looked around, hoping to find an unmarked teammate to pass the ball to but finding none.
That’s when she initiated the game’s most important play, inbouding the ball off her opponent’s back and taking it to the rim herself.
“The rule in defense is: never put your back to the ball,” said Clarke with a smirk.
Her tricky play revived the Stingers and gave them the boost they need to seal the game. Concordia guard Alex Boudreau destroyed any possibility of a Rouge et Or comeback when she nailed a three-point shot in the dying seconds.
It made for a big win over a fierce rival that had defeated the Stingers twice last season. However, head coach Keith Pruden was far from satisfied with the team’s performance.
“We went away from our game plan too much today,” he said. “The goal is to play at a certain level for 40 minutes—not five minutes on, five minutes off.”
One thing that definitely was not part of the game plan was 2011 league MVP Kaylah Barrett staying glued to the bench following foul trouble early in the game.
Fortunately, her teammates stepped up in her absence. One such teammate was first-year forward Marilyse Roy-Viau, who opened some eyes with a 16-point, eight-rebound performance.
Roy-Viau is one of five rookies added to the roster this season, all of whom are trying to help the Stingers return to the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec championship, alongside key veterans like Barrette and Clarke.
“Last year, we were good even if we lost in the finals,” said Clarke. “But this year we have a better team because we’re more experienced and we have good rookies bringing a lot of energy on the court.”
That certainly was the case again last Saturday, with the Stingers moving to 3-0 on the season after a 63-42 road victory over the Bishop’s Gaiters.
The Stingers’ next game is scheduled for Nov. 24, when they invite the McGill Martlets to the Concordia gym for a 2:00 p.m. matchup.