Basketball, Sports

Day one of McGill’s Basketball Classic see Martlets victory and Redbirds defeat

McGill’s Basketball Classic began on Oct. 14 with both the Martlets (2–4) and the Redbirds (1–6) in action at Love Competition Hall. 

McGill Martlets vs. MacEwan Griffins

The Martlets first took the court to face off against the MacEwan Griffins (0–2). McGill got out to a sluggish start and dug themselves into a 13-0 hole by 4:43. Despite the cold shooting and the poor finishing from the Martlets, the team doubled down on their defensive strategy and were able to limit the Griffins to just four points in the remainder of the first quarter. 

The momentum shifted after the team began forcing defensive stops, and McGill was rewarded offensively as the Martlets ended the quarter trailing by only five. The second quarter was a more balanced affair, with both teams locking up their defence and moving the ball well. Slowly but surely, the Martlets clawed their way back into the game and eventually tied it up. The team finally took the lead when more collaborative play allowed Emma-Jane Scotten to penetrate the paint and generate a three-point play opportunity right before the halftime buzzer. The strong take from the third-year guard pushed the Martlets into a narrow 33-30 lead at halftime.

The third opened up with a smooth three-pointer from second-year Katie Rathwell, which was quickly countered by a Griffins’ three. The fast pace and hustle on both ends resulted in many lead changes during the quarter. Early fouls by the Martlets hindered their defensive pressure and allowed their opponent to take a 45-43 lead heading into the final period. 

The last quarter brought nail-biting tension as Montreal’s own Ines Tchoukuiegno hit her rhythm. Coming off the bench, the first-year guard took over the game and scored the team’s first eight points of the quarter. Tchoukuiegno began her run with an old-school three-point play, followed up with a three-ball, and finished with a running layup. The back and forth continued, and the game was a tied contest with 36 seconds remaining. With just seven seconds left, a Griffin foul sent Tchoukuiegno to the line where the first-year nailed both her free throws to seal a 59-57 victory. 

In a post-game interview, Tchoukuiegno explained how the team stayed focused.

“We followed the game plan, we played good defence,” the first-year guard told

The McGill Tribune. “We really wanted to win this game. We need to stay focused when tired, keep encouraging each other and communicating well.”

After the game, head coach Rikki Bowles also shared her excitement for the team and noted some future areas for improvements. 

“They battled, they fought, and that same effort and energy has gotta continue for the rest of the tournament,” Bowles said. “But one thing to better is our rotations, so when we do get beat on the defensive, they can’t get to the rim.”

McGill Redbirds vs Lethbridge Pronghorns

After the Martlets exited the court, the Redbirds were up next against the Lethbridge Pronghorns (2–0). Just like the Martlets, the team fell behind quickly when their opponents started with hot shooting hands: The Pronghorns jumped out to a 14-2 lead halfway through the first quarter. While the Pronghorns showcased their skills by shooting 58.8 per cent from the field and 42.9 per cent from deep, McGill’s shooting woes continued. The Redbirds trailed 23-8 after 10 minutes with 14.3 per cent shooting from the field and 28.6 per cent from behind the arc. 

The team’s comeback attempt began in the second quarter with fifth-year transfer guard Samuel Chaput showcasing his bag of tricks and major explosiveness off the dribble to score 10 points. With renewed focus, the team worked to chip away at the lead. Fourth-year transfer combo-guard Ibrahim Gosselin-Diawara provided a spark off the bench with six points to help narrow the lead to within striking distance. At halftime, the Pronghorns were only leading 43-38 over the home team.

A comeback, however, became increasingly unlikely as the Redbirds had another cold shooting outing in the third, going one for eight from three-point land and five for 19 in the paint. Gosselin-Diawara tried to engineer a run with the bench players while the starters struggled to find their shots, but was unsuccessful. The Pronghorns took a 68-49 lead into the final quarter. The visitors kept their foot on the gas even as the Redbirds’ offence began hitting the mark in the fourth. Down by almost two dozen, McGill waved the white flag and emptied their bench in the later stages of the quarter. The game ended 89-72 in favour of the Pronghorns. 

In a post-game interview with the Tribune, Gosselin-Diawara mentioned some key points to keep in mind for future games, as well as the importance of team chemistry.

“We need to have a better start to the game, we need to be consistent and focused on the details, we have to be resilient and bounce back,” said the guard. “I like everyone on the team, [our] chemistry needs to be better, but that will take time.”

The McGill Tribune also caught up with head coach Ryan Thorne afterward to learn about the team’s takeaways. 

“We know we can play at a high level. We just gotta learn to do that consistently for 40 minutes,” said Thorne. “This is the first time that the whole group is together. Sometimes people are taking it all on themselves so we got to learn to play as a group and at a high level.”

On Oct. 15, both the Martlets and the Redbirds dropped games to the Laurier Goldenhawks and Saint Mary’s Huskies respectively. Oct. 16 brought victory to both teams with the Martlets taking down the Laurentian Voyageurs 65-62 and the Redbirds narrowly defeating the Ottawa Gee-Gees 61-60 for their first win of the season. 

Martlet Basketball returns on Nov. 3 for the regular season home opener against Bishop’s University at Love Competition Hall at 6 p.m. The Redbirds will follow at 8 p.m. 

Stat Corner:  It was a superb offensive outing for first-year guard Ines Tchoukuiegno, who led all players with 15 points on 50 per cent shooting from the field and hitting two out of four from the three. The rookie guard also contributed on the defensive end with three steals and one block.

Quotable: “I was really proud that even [with] the difficult start, they didn’t hang their heads, they didn’t stop working, they kept competing, and they fought back.” —Coach Rikki Bowles

Moment of the Game: During a tense tied game, fourth-year centre Amelie Rochon made a crucial steal to send Tchoukuiegno running the other way with less than 10 seconds left. With the Martlets in the bonus, the Griffins’ foul sent the rookie to the line where Tchoukuiegno demonstrated veteran composure to secure the win for the Martlets.

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