Almost four weeks ago your Stanstead Spartans won the MacLeod Provincials. It was March 1, a Friday. The following week there were no practices, as the winter athletics term had officially ended. On Friday, March 8 everyone left for March break and returned this past Monday night, March 26. Tuesday morning, we had an actual basketball practice from 8:30 to 9:30 am. Wednesday morning we had a 7:00 am light shoot-around.
And Wednesday afternoon, March 28, after barely touching a basketball for 27(!) days, we played the best team in the league in the RSEQ D2 semifinal.
I’m not gonna lie to you, I was legitimately concerned about being blown out of the gym. La Ruche had finished #1 in D2, were fully healthy, were on their home floor, were super-athletic and were firing on all cylinders. Conversely, most of your Stanstead Spartans had trouble making it through Tuesday’s practice without a defibrillator.
But in a season of surprises, this team surprised me (and themselves?) one more time. I could not be more proud. They managed their fatigue; they played fearlessly; they took Les Carnicas’ best punches for 32 minutes but flat-out refused to stay down. Every time La Ruche was poised to put the game out of reach, these courageous young women somehow found a way to keep it in range.
Down 17-9, Alex (inside) and Rosema (outside) score the next 4 pts. Down 21-13, we dig in to make it 23-21. La Ruche goes on a run to make it 33-24, but Rosema and Player Of The GameTMEmily Willis splash back-to-back threes to keep hope alive. Down 36-33 with a minute left in the game, Emily scores on a fast break, gets fouled, and coolly drains the free throw. Tie game! La Ruche scores two tough buckets to go up 40-36 with only 30 seconds left. Almost over, but Kenz bravely attacks the zone, draws the foul, and with the opposing fans doing anything they can (grunting? snorting? I’m not sure) to disrupt her, she somehow swishes both (with a smile ...).
Down 2. Time to foul. Rosy and Emily execute it perfectly, three quick fouls in under 8 seconds to put La Ruche on the line… and they miss one! One last chance… down by 3… time running out… opposing fans going nuts… Kenz somehow finds Emily who squirms free for a desperation contested 3… the shot goes up… but it was not to be. The buzzer sounds, final score 41-38, and the home team celebrates a well-deserved victory. It was a truly fantastic game on both sides, hard-nosed but with excellent sportsmanship, and in special games like these someone gets to win and someone has to lose. That’s the agony, and the beauty, of sport.
But the expression on the face of La Ruche’s coach in the handshake line said it all. You girls just wouldn’t quit, and no matter how little you’d played in the last month, no matter how tired and out of shape you were, he knew he had dodged a bullet. They had to bring their best to beat us, and it almost wasn’t enough. That said, I really like and respect that La Ruche team/program, and I wish them all the best in the finals.
As for your Spartans, one more game to go. Sunday vs Collège Sacre-Coeur for the RSEQ bronze medals. One more game before this unbelievable season comes to an end.