Noah's arc reigns supreme as Redmen hoopsters flood Rouge et Or to win third straight pennant
MONTREAL -- When all was said and done, it was a freshman who outshone the veterans as McGill men's basketball team celebrated "Seniors Night" by toppling Laval 73-64 in the season finale, Friday, before an announced crowd of 476 at Love Competition Hall.
Noah Daoust, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound rookie centre from Dorval, Que., came off the bench to register his first career "double-double" at the CIS level with a dozen points and 10 rebounds as the Redmen improved to 11-5 and clinched first place ahead of Laval (9-7). The result gave McGill a third consecutive Quebec conference regular season pennant. The Redmen will meet the fourth-place finisher -- either Bishop's (7-8) or Concordia (8-8) -- in a sudden-death semifinal at the RSEQ's Final Four championship on Friday, Feb. 27, in a tournament hosted by Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Que.
McGill becomes only the second school in CIS history to finish first in both basketball and hockey, for both men and women, during the same season. Alberta, the only other institution to do it, accomplished that rare quadruple feat last year.
"Noah's first-half effort was tremendous," said head coach David DeAveiro, who improved to 95-73 overall in his five seasons at McGill, including a 56-24 mark in regular season play. "He controlled the rebounding on the boards real well, made some shots. He was active and played with energy. When Noah plays with energy, he's quite capable of putting up those numbers. For every young guy, it's about finding consistency and he's trying to find that. Tonight we got a little glimpse of what Noah is capable of doing."
McGill, which had a 46-33 edge in rebounding, led 14-11 after the opening quarter, extended that to 32-20 by halftime and held a 57-38 advantage after three stanzas.
The game was essentially won by the bench, with McGill's subs outscoring Laval's by a whopping 42-12 margin.
Daoust, who was 4-for-11 shooting and went 3-for-4 from the line, was one of three Redmen to reach double figures in scoring. Team captain Vincent Dufort also contributed a dozen points, while rookie Jeremie Casavant-Dubois came off the bench to add 11. In fact, all 12 Redmen who dressed, found their way onto the scoresheet, including Francois Bourque who contributed eight points and six rebounds.
Laval had four players in double-digits, led by Boris Hadzimuratovic, who tallied an unlucky 13 for the losing side. Teammates Karl-Demers Belanger and Charles-Andre Edorh added 11 apiece, while Alexandre Leclerc chipped in with 10.
McGill drew 24 of the 35 personal fouls called as the Rouge et Or went to the free-throw line 28 times but only came away with a dozen points. The Redmen, for their part, went 5-for-8 from the charity stripe. McGill shot an impressive 47 per cent from the field, connecting on 31 of 66 attempts, compared to Laval, which went 23-for-69 (33.3%). Both teams made six treys, with Laval attempting 21 and McGill 24.
"We've been struggling a little bit of late, so it was important for us to have played well, to go into playoffs on a winning note instead of two losses," noted DeAveiro, whose troops had entered the contest with a 3-3 record in the last six. "It was important to be in the right frame of mind, both mentally and physically in terms of preparation for next week."
The team's two graduating seniors -- point-guard Ave Bross (sociology) and forward Rodrigo Imperador (education) -- were honoured with a framed McGill jersey in an emotional pre-game ceremony, along with two others who missed the seniors soiree last year, namely Nathan Joyal (political science) and Philip Jevtovic (management).
"It was important for us to send our seniors off with a win," said DeAveiro, "All the credit for our success over the last few years goes to the kids that have been in our program. They've really worked hard to buy into our culture here and what we've been trying to preach. They deserve all the credit, along with our support staff, who have been a big part of what we've accomplished. Putting up three consecutive first-place finishes is a team effort, something to be very proud of."
REDMEN RAP: Sophomore Francois Bourque finished first among the league's leading rebounders, averaging 9.1 per game... Starter Dele Ogundokun, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore guard, was kept out of the lineup for the third straight game with an unspecified injury. The team's second-leading scorer and third leading rebounder, he averaged 9.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He also led the league in steals with an average of 2.6 per game... No word yet on whether he will be back in time for the first playoff contest.