UQAM 63, Concordia 57: So close, yet so far

Men’s basketball team bows out in RSEQ final

The Citadins hoist the championship trophy. Photo Alice Martin

The Concordia Stingers fought the good fight. But in the end, it was the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins who came away with the win at John Dore Court on March 2. It marks the Citadins’ second consecutive Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship.

Elation at one end of the court is deflation at the other, as this game put an end to the remarkable 2023-24 season for the Stingers.

“I can’t be more proud of our guys and how we compete with such a young team,” said Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic. The Stingers notched a 12-4 regular season record, placing them atop the RSEQ standings, all the while employing ten first-year players on the roster. “I’m looking forward to seeing how these guys put in the work over the summer, and we’ll be back bigger and better next year.”

One of those first-year players is six-foot-six forward and centre Karam Sahly, who saved his best game of the season for last. He recorded 18 points and 12 rebounds— both career-highs—in the final for his first career double-double.

“I’m feeling good, but I would feel better if we had the win,” said Sahly. “It felt good to feel like I belong in the league.”

Another big performance came from first-year guard Jordan Telfort, who started both playoff games in place of injured guard Sami Jahan. Telfort has appeared in every game this season, but the final marked just the third start of his young career.

He put up eight points and five rebounds in the final. His performance is even more impressive considering the abundance of fourth and fifth-year veterans on UQAM’s roster.

“They were outstanding today,” Popovic said about Telfort and Sahly. “What they learned today is going to make them such amazing players by the time they’re in year three, four, and five. [...] They can’t ask for better in first year than to have this experience as a learning experience.”

Perhaps the biggest downfall for the Stingers in the final was going 1-for-24 from beyond the arc, with their only successful shot from downtown coming off the fingertips of guard Alec Phaneuf mid-way through the first quarter.

The Stingers also got the short end of the stick on many open shots, seeing the ball bounce in and out or just trickle off the rim. It’s a game of bounces, and the Stingers did not get enough of them.

Concordia trailed by nine at halftime, and did their utmost to reel in the Citadins, but were never able to cut the deficit to fewer than three points in the second half.

Regardless of the result, the John Dore Court was still rocking all game long, with crowd noise amplifying the game’s intensity and leaving players and other fans unable to hear themselves think.

“It’s a playoff game in our gym. There’s nothing better,” Popovic said. “It sounds like there’s ten thousand people and I’m very happy with the fans. They supported us, they pushed our guys in the second half. It’s a great experience for these guys to live and play a game in this gym, and it’s something you’ve got to relish and work all summer so you can get back in the same position.”

The Citadins will move forward to the U Sports Championships, hosted by the Laval Rouge et Or from March 14-17. For the Stingers, the work begins to get back to the final next season, with a better result.