McGill 48, Concordia 46: Redbirds outlast Stingers in the final seconds to win the RSEQ men’s basketball championship
Concordia loses in heartbreaking fashion while the McGill Redbirds remain undefeated through the entire RSEQ season
The Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team came into hostile territory on Saturday, March 26 as they faced the McGill Redbirds at a sold-out Love Competition Hall at Mcgill.
Stingers forward Olivier Simon had the game in his hands but could not convert the three-point shot with less than two seconds to go in the game in order to secure the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec championship.
For head coach Rastko Popovic, the play was drawn up exactly to plan but the ball just did not want to go in.
“We knew that they were gonna switch in a lot so we had Alec [Phaneuf] screen across from Oli, thinking that Oli could come with his size and get a shot,” said Popovic. “He had a good look. Probably the best look considering there were 1.4 seconds and they were expecting something to the rim off a lob.”
Concordia’s offence could not get going as they did not score until there were two minutes left on the clock in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Redbirds were able to go on a 12-0 run thanks in part to the production of Jamal Mayali and Sam Jenkins.
“The one thing I told them was that we fought. Yes, we were down 12-0 after missing a couple of layups. I thought we missed a couple of easy shots early on but to come in this type of atmosphere down 12-0 and cut it down, it shows what kind of team we have and what kind of fight we have.” said Popovic.
The first quarter would end with a score of 17-5 for the Redbirds. The second quarter would prove to already be much better as fifth-year veteran Olivier Simon would convert a three-point shot on the first play. The Stingers went on to only allow four points in the first seven minutes of the second half.
“It was honestly the game plan, the scouting that we had, we knew which guys on their team could score and we had a full game plan to stop them,” said Stingers guard Sami Jahan.
The first half would end with both teams trading baskets but the Redbirds would ultimately lead by five after at the break. Olivier Simon led all players with 10 points while Stingers guard Sami Jahan had seven points of his own.
The offensive woes would rehash for Concordia however as they would fail to convert a basket in the first three and a half minutes of play of the third quarter.
“I think the defence was amazing, the offence was the complete opposite, the goal is to keep a team like that under 50 points and we did it but we just could not score. It is hard to win a game when you cannot score like that,” said Oge Nwoko, a fourth-year veteran of the Stingers who finished with eight rebounds.
The Stingers would show some fight as they went on an 8-0 run in three minutes to chip the lead of McGill all the way down to 32-30 for McGill.
The Redbirds would then go on a run of their own, finishing the third quarter up 39-32.
Both teams showed grit and determination in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter as they both wanted to come out with the victory and the spot to the nationals.
Nwoko talked about how much head coach Rastko Popovic means to this team.
“He means a lot. If you asked us about a semester ago, I do not think a game would look like this. He does his job well and he puts us in a position to win,” said Nwoko.
The low-scoring game would continue however as both teams combined for a total of seven points in the first half of the fourth quarter with McGill ultimately leading by 10.
Concordia would not back down as they went on an 8-2 run with forward Olivier Cadieux cutting the lead down to two points with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately a final shot from Simon, who finished the game with 14 points and 10 rebounds, could not go in for the victory and the McGill Redbirds held on to claim their first RSEQ championship since the 2017-2018 season. They also finished the entire regular season and playoffs undefeated. Sam Jenkins of the Mcgill Redbirds led his team with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
After a roller coaster of a season for the Stingers, head coach Rastko Popovic was extremely proud of his players when asked about the season as a whole.
“Listen, we had like 13 different starting lineups in 19 games. [The injuries] did not stop but we do not use it as an excuse. We had lots of young guys who have never been in this situation. That is why I am even more proud because of how hard we fought and how hard we competed,” said Popovic.
“I am so proud of the guys, we fought through a lot of adversity and a lot of injuries. It has been a crazy year for everyone. It was not meant to be this time but we are going to remember this pain and we are going to come back next year and try again,” said Jahan