Concordia 84, Nipissing 77: Stingers Men’s Basketball Locks up Win on Opening Night at Concordia Classic
Stingers Dissect Laker Defence With 16 Assists in Second Half
Chasing a repeat from last year’s wild championship finish, the Stingers entered the Concordia Classic Tournament with some steam.
Following a 24-point blowout win vs Ontario Tech in non-conference play, Concordia hosted the Nipissing Lakers, who had one player dictate the entire first half—Justin Hill.
Scoring a half court buzzer beater and 21 of his team’s 34 first-half points, Hill hit four three’s, shooting 8/10 from the field in 17 minutes. The Lakers’ streaky shooter may have stunned the crowd, but despite Concordia’s slow start, they were right in it , behind Aleks Simeunovic’s nine first-half points.
Simeunovic knows his side didn’t get the start it wished for. Shooting 2/17 from three-point range and committing five turnovers, the stingers were still able to battle back and forth with the Lakers, as the half had seven lead changes and a score tied five times.
The Stingers went into the break down 34-31 but Simeunovic says the second half turnaround was all about effort.
“We wanted to win this game. We knew we couldn’t lose this game especially after starting off [preseason] 1-3. We knew we couldn’t lose so we just came out there to fight [..] and we ended up winning the game,” said Simeunovic who had a team high 23 points.
As the Lakers looked to continue feeding their sharp shooting guard Hill at the beginning of the third, Concordia had other plans.A re-energized team walked on the court, locking up Nipissing’s guards full court, which Stinger veteran and all-star Adrian Armstrong says made the difference.
“We made them speed up their offence. So they stopped getting into their sets as easily with the full court pressure. So we stood in the right hand and forced them to really get out of their comfort zone which caused their offence to run down the lower ends of the shot clock and then we started getting into transition.”
Though Nipissing was able to build a 46-36 lead in the quarter, the Stingers stingy defence helped them mount a run, tying the game at 50.
Playing without their reliable fourth-year starter Olivier Simon, the Stingers had good secondary offence from guard Oge Nwoko, who finished the game with 14 points and two steals.
While good defence translated to better offence for the Stingers, Concordia enjoyed their first lead of the game since the 8:10 mark of the first at the end of the third quarter, with the score at 61-59 after consecutive threes from Simeunovic and Armstrong.
Things were clicking, the ball was moving and most importantly in basketball, the players trusted each other and it showed.
After the Stingers held a 10 point lead with 3:41 minutes left in the game, if there were any thoughts of a Hill led comeback by the Lakers, Concordia crushed them to bits with a well executed half court sequence that exemplifies stinger basketball.
“It showed what we’ve been asking guys. To be patient and make reads defensively.
“We’re a much more difficult team to guard when we make the right reads and we share the ball,” said head coach Popovic after the game about the play.
Closing out their Ontario University Athletics opponents 84-77, this Stinger team is slowly finding its identity.
As most of their opponents will have to work their agenda around fifth-year shooter Adrian Armstrong—who finished with 20 points and six assists—more players will look to contribute and compete “but it’s a process and we got ways to go,” said head coach Popovic.
The Stingers play the Saskatchewan Huskies today at 6 p.m., en route to defending last year’s title.
However, in this preseason, head coach Popovic’s biggest objective is to juggle lines, understand his players ability to read and react on the fly and experiment.
Yesterday’s takeaway was “we have to be more consistent. We have to be more consistent on both ends of the floor. It’s a process,” he finished.