The energy in Love Competition Hall was brimming with anticipation ahead of the opening tip-off between the McGill Redbirds (3–0) and Bishop’s Gaiters (1–2) on Nov. 20. The hotly contested match ended in a narrow 76-74 win for the Redbirds, who furthered their three-game win streak to sit atop the RSEQ conference standings.
The two teams had not faced off since the 2019-2020 season, when McGill swept Bishops in all five games. Given this history, the visiting Gaiters set out to prove that they were a new-and-improved team, scoring more points than the Redbirds in three out of four quarters. Despite missing two key players, they gave the Redbirds a run for their money, but the home team ultimately outlasted them. Fifth-year Sam Jenkins scored his first double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds in total.
It was a physical game from the get-go: The Gaiters established a relentless pace of play, racking up early threes and keeping the McGill squad on their toes. Despite energetic performances from Jenkins and fourth-year Kevin Li, who boasted 10 points in only 14 minutes played, the Redbirds ended the first period down 22-18.
The second period was when the Redbirds really hit their stride, dribbling circles around their opponents and snagging rebounds to sink a series of tip-ins, not to mention the four free throws to cap off the frame 45-38.
After halftime, the Redbirds were starting to get worn down and their man-to-man press suffered as a result; fouls out of frustration led to a string of opportunities in the lane for Bishop’s. Guard Carl Dubois sank one free throw after another to reduce the gap late in the third quarter, bringing the score to 62-57.
In the final frame, the Gaiters were hot on McGill’s heels and would not go down without a fight. The final minute of the game had the crowd at the edge of their seats, especially after a crucial turnover by McGill handed Bishop’s the layup they needed to even the score. But Cameron Elliot retaliated with a layup of his own to put the Redbirds in the lead with less than a minute left. Despite a last-ditch trey attempt, the Gaiters could not respond in time and the game went to the home team.
In a post-game interview with The McGill Tribune, Kevin Li explained how the Redbirds were feeling in that last minute when the score was still tied.
“We were pretty calm because […] we played another game against UQAM, one of the best teams in the league, and we beat them by two points,” Li said. “We were down by five, but we all knew we were going to come back [….] We have the confidence to win.”
When asked about points to improve upon in the future, Li mentioned one in particular.
“Just rebounds,” Li said. “I left too many boards, I thought my team was going to get it but I had the idea in my mind that [I was] going to get every rebound.”
Teammate Cameron Elliot added a few elements of play he thought the team could work on to maintain momentum going forward.
“It starts with defence, always making sure we’re all on the same page [and] knowing who’s who on the other team, and making sure that we’re working harder than them,” Elliot said.
While a couple of Gaiters stood out for their efforts, the Redbirds’ teamwork shined through. Elliot felt that the team chemistry has improved since their pre-season lineup.
“I think we got off to maybe a rocky start, getting used to new things and stuff,” Elliot said of the team’s pre-season record. “But we’re starting to click and mesh a little better.”
This is certainly evidenced by their undefeated record in the RSEQ conference so far. The Redbirds head to Laval to face the Rouge et Or in their last matchup of the fall semester on Nov. 26.
Moment of the game:
With only 47 seconds left on the clock and the scoreboard reading 74-74, third-year guard Cameron Elliot scored the final basket that was left unanswered, clinching the win.
“I think we made some mistakes, we made some good plays, but at the end of the day, we got the win and that’s what matters.” —Third-year Cameron Elliot
The Redbirds were deadly at the free throw line, sinking 14 out of 17 attempts (82.4 per cent).