Boy, did these girls prove me wrong.
In the first 10 minutes of the tourney, up against a Sacred Heart team that had given us real trouble the last time we played them, your Spartans had a terrific warmup and then EXPLODED out of the gate. The first four possessions; 1) steal, fast break layup, 2) rebound, fast break layup, 3) blocked shot, fast break layup, 4) rebound, fast break layup. Boom Boom Boom Boom four textbook defensive stands, four perfect outlet passes, four sweet finishes, one Sacred Heart timeout, and five Stanstead players bouncing and hi-fiving their way to a raucous, madly cheering bench.
The rest of the game followed suit, on the way to a satisfying 31-19 victory over a Saints team that fought to the final whistle. Looked like everyone had forgotten about that awful Laruche game.
What Laruche game?
In the 2nd round-robin game we squared off against LCC’s B team, and prevailed 39-16. No less than four people came up to me afterwards to say how impressed they were with how classily the Stanstead players handled themselves. How you win is just as important as how you lose. In both cases, you reveal your true character.
Our Friday wins meant we would meet a strong CVR squad in a Saturday morning Semifinal. Some basketball games are pretty, with free-flowing offense and fast breaks and swishing jumpers. But some games are slugfests, where everything you do, every dribble and pass and rebound and shot and drive is contested. That was this game. We had to work our hardest just to hold onto the ball, as our opponents were athletic, strong, tall and fierce, and attacked the basketball like piranhas with blood in the water. Our 14 turnovers marks a season-high, and to be honest, I’m surprised the number’s not even higher.
But our defense, OF COURSE, kept us in it, forcing misses and battling for our lives on the defensive glass. Until with one minute left, CVR willed in a tough baseline jumper to take a 19-18 lead which would hold up until the final buzzer.
But the way we played that last minute, that deserves praise. Because we played it smart. We intelligently defended inbounds passes. We fouled quickly to try to get into bonus. We did not waste a second of that final minute. It didn’t work out this time (it’s kinda tough to commit 7 fouls in 20 seconds!), but how you manage the end-game in a close game is often the difference between thrilling victory and crushing defeat. What we learned in that final minute may well prove important in the coming weeks.
Or, ironically, two hours later! Down 25-16 to WIC in a game to decide 3rd place, your Spartans staged a gripping comeback in the final 4 minutes. 25-19…25-21…25-23…now only 20 sec left and the Voyageurs have the ball. Just like last game, we have to foul to stop the clock and force them to make free throws (luckily, they ARE in the bonus this time, thanks to five fouls from SC’s version of Hulk Hogan)
And we do it perfectly. Go for the steal, don’t get it, then foul immediately with 15 sec left. The WIC player misses the first foul shot…and misses the second!…but we don’t box out and give up the critical offensive rebound L. We smartly foul again, but this time she makes one of two, and only 6 seconds remain for us to go full court and chuck a desperation three, which we miss.
After the game, a fellow coach remarked to me “hey, tough day today, eh? losing by 1 and then losing by 3?”. But I disagree. Close, competitive games is why we play sports. Those two exhilarating Saturday losses? I’ll take those any day over 20-pt wins and listless blowouts. Every single player was 100% focused and in the moment, experiencing the thrill of tough competition, with her teammates, learning things about basketball and about herself. Why even bother playing, if not for that?
And then top that off with a team supper at Scores, with the Sr Boys (congrats on the Consolation Championship!), filling the restaurant with laughter and camaraderie, followed by all of us going to watch the Gaiters Women’s and Men’s teams play back-to-back vs the McGill Redmen (featuring ex-Spartan Jamal Mayali) at Bishop’s University?
Tough day? Uh, no.
Au contraire (yes, that’s French) one of my favourite days of the season. Great weekend, ladies!
- Coaches Van Dyke & Wolfe
The year so far….
Overall Record: 20 wins 4 losses
RSEQ League Play: 5 wins 1 loss
Points for per game: 37.3 Points allowed per game: 28.1
Stanstead Invitational Tournament CHAMPIONS
M.I.S. Tournament CHAMPIONS