Valparaiso 94, Concordia 90: Late Fourth Quarter Drought in Preseason Game Sinks Stingers Men’s Basketball

Stingers Drain 14 three’s in Losing Effort Against NCAA Div 1 Opponent

Stingers fail to close out Valparaiso University at home after late game drought in 4th quarter. Kyran Thicke

Lacing it up for the first time at home since their March 2nd RSEQ championship triumph, the Stingers looked to add more wins to their preseason exhibition schedule against NCAA Division 1 competition.

They welcomed Valparaiso University to the dome, where both teams kept the crowd on edge with captivating, free-flowing, and competitive basketball.

After opening up preseason play with a 98-90 victory over Quinnipiac University Thursday evening at Laval’s Place Bell, the Stingers found themselves in yet another high octane scoring affair versus a well balanced Crusader team.

Though basketball is a game of runs and momentum, it’s easy to forget the importance of a strong start. Concordia started slow and Valpo’s sophomore Guard Javon Freeman—who had eight of his team’s first 16 points—had no problem exposing the Stingers’ lack of focus in the opening quarter.

“I thought we got off to a slow start again, we gave up way too many points in the first quarter. I thought our defence picked up in the second and third quarter especially in the 3rd quarter,” explained Stingers Head Coach Popovic after the game.

Finishing with a game high 27 points and a highlight-reel dunk on the baseline in the third quarter, Freeman’s offensive burst, which was matched by Concordia’s Sami Ghandour as they both finished with 8 in the quarter, gave a quick edge to the visiting side.

While the Crusaders managed to build their biggest lead of the game at 4:55 mark of the first with the score at 21-11, the reigning RSEQ champions slowly asserted themselves back into the game with their lethal shooting ability as they went on a 12-6 run to end the quarter, cutting Valpo’s lead to 27-23.

As the two evenly matched teams battled their way to a tie game with 7:55 min left in the half, Concordia distanced themselves by doing what they do best—knocking down shots.

After second year guard Tariq Bakri-Hamad—who finished with 12 points shooting 3/6 from beyond the arc— hit two consecutive threes, Concordia looked fierce and determined to get the upper hand. First year guard, Sami Jahan also showed signs of growth and maturity as he ended the game with nine points, playing a total of 26 minutes.

Their performance merited strong appreciation from teammate and former all star Adrian Armstrong, who finished the game with a team high 23 points.

“I liked what backup point guards with Cedric out, Sami Jahan and Tariq Bakri-Hamad did. I liked what they did. Coming in not many minutes last year, rookies and still controlled the offence,” said Armstrong.

Despite winning the quarter 29-23 and benefiting from a long range buzzer beating bomb by six-foot-six Aleks Simeunovic to end the half with a 52-50 lead, Stingers Coach Popovic knows that shooting teams out of the gym is a strong asset but shouldn’t be a priority.

“Our defence has to be better, we can’t be giving up 90 points every game and then hope to win even though we shot the ball pretty well.”

Heading into the third quarter, with a total of four ties and three lead changes, Concordia seemed to establish themselves more effectively in the game. As they built a double-digit lead with good ball movement, extra passes, and tighter defence, signs of a seesaw battle became less likely.

The stingers closed out the third up 77-65 with key contributions from fourth year Forward Olivier Simon—who finished the game with 15 points, shooting 7/10 from the floor.

The turning point happened midway through the fourth, when a couple missed opportunities, tough bounces, and missed shots led to an eventual 4:56 min drought by the Stingers.

Valpo stormed back scoring 29 points in the quarter and regained the lead for the first time since the first quarter with 1:32 left courtesy of Javon Freeman. Backcourt teammate Daniel Sackey also fueled the comeback as he dropped 21 points on 9/14 shooting from the field.

For Coach Popovic, this time of the year is about refining the little things and doubling down on areas to improve on. Though the game could have gone either way, he made it clear where the team stands right now.

“In August you either win or you learn. At this point, this is not a championship for us.”

“We have a lot of young guys playing, so I think sometimes it’s understanding the offense, what shot we want, where we want it […] it’s a good learning experience for us, got some great video and we look forward to getting back to work tomorrow in practice,” he finished.

Concordia will look to get back in the win column Tuesday at 8 p.m. at home as they face the Bermuda National Team.