Carolann Cloutier cashes in as McGill ladies lasso Laval, complete campaign at 15-1
MONTREAL -- Carolann Cloutier of St. Mathieu de Beloeil, Que., scored a game-high 16 points as the No.4-ranked McGill women's basketball team rallied from a poor start to finish up strong en route to a 63-56 victory over Laval, Friday.
The result, before more than 400 fans on graduating "seniors night" at Love Competition Hall, improved the division-leading Martlets to 15-1 as the RSEQ regular season came to a close. It marked the second-highest win total in school history for the Martlets, who have now finished first for five consecutive seasons. The only other time that a Quebec team has had more victories was in 1996-97, with both McGill and Concordia ending up at 16-4 in an era when a lengthier schedule was played. The Martlets join Laval as the only Quebec teams to reach the 15-win plateau since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 2003. Laval also went 15-1 in 2004-05.
The Rouge et Or ended up at 7-9, tied with Concordia for third place but the Stingers placed higher on the tie-breaker with a slim 268-265 edge in point-differential over the four games split between those teams. The end result is that McGill and Laval will meet in a sudden-death semifinal on March 5 in Lennoxville, Que., where Bishop's will be hosting the RSEQ Final Four championship tournament, which utilizes a sudden-death knockout format.
Laval led 13-7 after the opening quarter before McGill began creeping back into the contest. The Rouge et Or held a slim 27-25 lead at halftime but McGill made some lineup shuffles in the second half, outscoring the visitors 24-16 in the third quarter and 14-13 in the final stanza.
"We started out really sloppy as there was a lot of emotion with our graduating players and the girls wanted to play well for them," explained McGill head coach Ryan Thorne, who collected his 100th career victory in 192 regular season games behind the McGill bench over the past dozen years. "We weren't as sharp as we wanted to be. But we rectified that in the second half and had a much better performance."
Cloutier, a 5-foot-9 guard who transferred from the NCAA's UMass Minutewomen last year, reached double figures for the third time in the last six contests. She shot 7-for-12 from the floor, making two of six from three-point range. She played a game-high 29 minutes and was also credited with four assists and a steal.
"You saw what Cloutier can do out there," said Thorne. "She's a fantastic player, especially shooting from the outside and she can attack the basket. That's what we expected when we brought her in last year but she struggled with injuries for most of the season. It was all about her getting back into the rotation and getting better situated with her role. That confidence is now coming back and that's what we saw tonight. She's one of the top three-point shooters in the league and it all came together for her tonight. It's at the right time of the year and hopefully she's ready to go for playoffs."
Cloutier started the contest along with fellow seniors Tiye Traore and Marie-Pier Bastrash as a tribute to the team's graduating players, who were recognized in an emotional post-game ceremony. As a result, Mariam Sylla, Alex Kiss-Rusk and Jennifer Silver, McGill's top three big forwards, saw less court time and were held to six, eight and eight points, respectively. Sylla, however, collected a game-high 13 rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Rusk played 21 minutes and Silver 18.
"I'm proud of all our seniors, those are kids that we recruited to make our program better," said Thorne. "Even Carolann, who initially went to the NCAA but played for me when I was coaching the Quebec provincial team back in 2006. So I knew them well and I'm very happy with the contribution that they have made for the Martlet basketball program. Each of them have played a specific role in our success and I wish them much success in their future careers."
The only other player to reach double figures in the game was Laval's Raphaelle Cote with 12 points.
McGill, which had a 49-37 margin in rebounds, shot a sub-par 31.9 per cent from the field (23/72), went 7-for-16 from the arc and dropped 10 of 14 from the line. Laval shot 28.4 (19/67), connected on six of 19 trys and drained 12 of 17, respectively.
The Martlets will meet Laval for the fifth time this season when they match-up at the conference semifinal on Thursday, March 5 in a 6 p.m. tip-off at the Mitchell gym... McGill has won 16 straight from the Rouge et Or, including all four confontations this season, by scores of 60-46 and 74-62 in Quebec City, in addition to 62-51 and 63-56 in Montreal.
MARTLET MURMURS: McGill starting point-guard Dianna Ros, who only had three points and three rebounds, was hampered by a facial mask for the second straight game. She suffered a broken nose after an errant elbow late in a 56-51 win over UQAM on Feb. 19... Laval head coach Linda Marquis, who has announced her retirement after this season, her 30th as bench boss, was recognized by McGill officials in a pre-game ceremony. Marquis, who now owns a lifetime record of 514 wins and 301 losses behind the bench, was a two-time all-star guard at Laval from 1977 to 1980. After graduating, she transferred to McGill, where she played more two seasons (1981 to 1983), while completing a master's degree in education. She led the Martlets in scoring both years and graduated as the team's fourth-leading scorer at the time, with 1,055 points in 69 games overall, for an average of 15.3 points per game. A two-time all-star and a second-team all-Canadian while playing for the Martlets, she shot an impressive 47 per cent from the field and 80 per cent from the free-throw line.