The seats of Love Competition Hall were sparsely filled as the Martlets basketball team (0–5) made their return to the court after a three-month hiatus to face off against the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins (3–2). With only nine players on the bench, the Martlets lost 66-36.
“I approached Thursday’s game as the start of a whole new season. New year, new beginning,” wrote third-year guard Jessica Salanon in a message to The McGill Tribune. “[The] first half of the season wasn’t easy for us, but at this point we have nothing to lose, only experience to gain.”
First-year guard Iman Ibrahim opened up the scoring with an easy layup. UQAM was quick to gain the lead back, but both teams’ defences kept each other on their toes. There was no clear leader in the first quarter until the last three minutes, when the gap between UQAM and McGill widened in the visitors’ favour, leaving the score at 15-13 for the Citadins.
The Martlets started the second quarter with a dry spell until Salanon scored the team’s first points of the quarter at the 6:46 mark. Yet, the Citadins persisted, maintaining an 11-point lead.
The Martlets continued to make unsuccessful attempts at field goals, and their defence fell short against the relentless Citadin offence. But Rathwell brought morale back up after a fantastic three-pointer, cheering up both the team and the crowd.
Centre Kristy Awikeh made a layup with just over one minute left in the second quarter, while Salanon sank two free throws. The Martlets went into half-time reinvigorated despite UQAM’s 35-24 lead.
“I think the first half of the game showed that we have improved as a team,” Rathwell said. “We are a very young team going against much older teams. There is no doubt that this is a rebuilding year for us, but I think that each of us have our individual strengths and have potential.”
By the end of the third quarter, the Martlets had only managed to score four more points, including another two free throws by Salanon. The Citadins scored 11 points, bringing the score up to 51-28, increasing their already significant advantage.
Salanon was disappointed with the results of the third quarter, but took the time to reflect on how the team could improve moving forward.
“Unfortunately, when we came back from half, things went downhill,” Salanon said. “We weren’t able to score and we were giving them easy baskets. I know we are a young team so we lack a lot of experience. We have to learn to stay consistent through the whole game.”
The fourth quarter was dogged by player exhaustion on both sides, resulting in low scoring and several loose balls. However, guard Joy Taan-Tobias broke the slump through an amazing defensive move, setting Rathwell up for a layup.
Spirits brightened, and the Martlets gave it their all for the end of the game. Rathwell scored an additional four points, but UQAM’s lead was too substantial, and they claimed victory 66-36. While it wasn’t the outcome they wanted, Rathwell believes that their moment will come.
“Progress and winning isn’t something that is going to happen overnight, but I’m certain as we all fight our hardest this next month and for the seasons to come it’s something in our future,” Rathwell said.
With the team’s motivation and determination, it won’t be too long before the group solidifies the perfect winning combination.
The Martlets next face off against fourth-place Laval on Feb. 24 at Love Competition Hall.
Moment of the Game:
After a long scoring drought, the crowd saw a brilliant play from Taan-Tobias. The resulting turnover allowed Rathwell to score, reinvigorating the Martlets.
With 11 points and five field goals out of 10 attempts, Katie Rathwell had her best game of the season yet.
“I think that for the rest of the season, our goal would be to be disciplined and [to] fight through the whole game, not only through the first half.” — Third-year guard Jessica Salanon