Stingers Stutter on big Stage
Ryerson Comes Back to Beat Concordia in Losers Bracket
Game One: Agony
Concordia’s national championship dreams were crushed minutes into the CIS men’s basketball quarter finals as the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, ranked sixth in the tournament, outplayed the Stingers, ranked third, right from the tip-off.
The game finished 98-82 at the Halifax Metro Centre in Nova Scotia on Friday.
Concordia just couldn’t keep hold of the ball and were cold when shooting it, while X-Men MVP guard Terry Thomas took advantage of their misplays and scored a game-high 39 points. “He’s only second year, but he’s a fantastic athlete,” said Stingers head coach John Dore of Thomas’ play.
“It was a disappointing end to a good season, not a great season.” Stingers head coach John Dore
The Stingers were outrun and outgunned early in the game as St. Francis Xavier screamed to a 17-point lead after the first. The tone was set by Concordia coming out flat on offense and a failing to keep up to the X-Men’s tempo.
“We didn’t stop them in the first five minutes, after that we outscored them,” said Dore. “I think we were outworked, they were faster up and down the court, they were more intense and we were outplayed.”
“When you give up 23 points in three minutes, it’s hard to come back from that.”
St. Francis Xavier used their two all-stars, guard Terry Thomas and forward Jeremy Dunn, to send a message to the Stingers with two massive dunks in the first and second quarter.
The Stingers did muster a half-hearted comeback late in the first but started the second like they did in the previous quarter, by turning over the ball and missing shots early and often.
The lead was cut slightly to 18 going into recess and slimmed even more early in the third to a 15-point deficit, but the same themes came to haunt the Stingers during the quarter and the X-men went back up by 21.
Stingers James Clark and Zach Brisebois, who put up 10 and 12 points respectively, tried to force a comeback in the third but Thomas put a stop to that, forcing more turnovers and hitting almost every shot attempted.
Game Two: Better, But Not Best
Ryerson University kicked the Stingers out of the consolation competition Saturday after the StFX beating, ultimately ending an extraordinary season with a disappointing tournament.
ConU led for most of the game, but lost concentration in the third quarter and couldn’t keep up with the Rams, ending in an 84-80 defeat.
“It was a disappointing end to a good season, not a great season,” said Dore. “All the mistakes we’ve made during the year manifested themselves today. We were embarrassed yesterday, today was more about pride than anything else,” he said.
The Stingers restored that pride early on, emulating the X-Men’s start against them the day before by rushing to a 13-2 start.
ConU was hitting their shots at the beginning, another thing they were well short of against the X-Men. And when Evens Laroche wasn’t hitting threes, Clark was there to rebound hard and put it away.
But the Rams woke up halfway through the first, and decided to get to work.
Ryerson’s power forward Bjorn Michaelsen set the team alight with strong drives down low and consistent shooting from the outside, sending the Rams on a 15-5 run.
Going into the second quarter with an uncomfortable four-point lead, the pressure from Ryerson didn’t stop. The Stingers started turning the ball over, and the Rams started running at Concordia, coming even to them at one point in the quarter.
Strong play in the paint, however, kept Concordia in the game and at the break they held the four-point lead.
That lead was kept for the majority of the third quarter, but with four minutes left to go the Rams took advantage of the Stingers’ lackluster play. They went on a 14-0 run.
Ryerson even had a five-point trip down the quarter when Luke Staniscia of the Rams laid a basket up, but got a foul on the play. He missed, but the rebound went to Ryerson, and guard Ola Adegboruwa did the same thing as Staniscia in getting the foul and going to the line—but he sunk the extra point.
“We have lapses, we don’t raise our level of intensity, we just keep going up and down,” said Clark, the Stingers’ game MVP with 22 points. In the final quarter both teams came out hard but defensive lapses killed the Stingers.
“Their guard penetration hurt us,” said Dore, adding that it was the same problems yesterday, and throughout the year, that cost them the game on Saturday.
Ultimately Michaelsen, who ended up with 25 points, and Aaron Best were an unstoppable force for the Rams.
Although Dore admits the team was undone by the energetic display of StFX the first day of the tournament, he still would have gone in with the same strategy.
“I think we were well prepared going in,” he said. “We just have to be able to compete, there’s nothing else to do differently but to compete, and we just didn’t do it.”
The team didn’t live up to its standards, but Dore said glowing things about his “family” of players’ performance this past year.
“We’ve been together six to seven days a week since August. We travel together, eat together, we’re like a family,” he said. “They have to study too—it’s not an easy going for them.”
Now the focus is on the off-season and Dore said he’s already been scouting for new talent—even though a significant amount of the team, 11 of 13 players, will be returning for next year. The two graduating players are Clark and Decee Krah.
“[It’s] never a good feeling to lose,” said Clark, who’s graduating with a degree in sociology. “Personally I’m happy I ended my career on a high, but collectively the way we played, I’m disappointed.”
Clark, however, didn’t have to suffer alone. He was amongst a large entourage of friends and family that travelled down to voice their Stingers’ spirit. Media communications officer Catherine Grace said the support was exceptional.
“They had drums, thunder sticks and everything. We called them the best sixth man in Halifax,” she said of the approximately 45 people that made the trip from Montreal “They never stopped, no matter what. They were in it with all their hearts—it was fun, a lot of team spirit was seen.”
with files from Catherine Grace