Basketball, Sports

Martlets basketball outduels Concordia Stingers in blowout victory

On Feb. 9, as the cold and rainy weather sought to destroy the morale of the McGill fanbase, the Martlets (3–11) provided a cure the only way they know how: A thrilling victory over their most formidable opponent, the Concordia Stingers (3–11). With a full crowd packed into the stands of Love Competition Hall, another great chapter in a never-ending saga between the Martlets and their rival Stingers began to unfold. 

After suffering a 55-44 defeat to Concordia on Nov. 12, the Martlets were eager to strike back. The home court advantage undoubtedly provided a surge of intensity from the top to the bottom of the Martlets roster as they prepared for battle. 

McGill came out of the tip-off with an undeniably gritty presence, turning their always scrappy defence into well-executed fastbreak opportunities. Between this and their poise in the half-court set, they were able to come out as victors at the end of the first quarter with a commanding 17-9 lead. 

In the second quarter, the Martlets continued to play their style of basketball, running their offence efficiently to create three-point opportunities. They continued to expose Concordia’s weak interior defence in the second and overshadowed the Stingers’ strong shot-making ability. Symbolic of this size advantage was Jessica Salanon’s overpowering post move in the second that gave the Martlets the momentum they needed to close out the half with an 11-point lead at 33-22.

After the half, Concordia made its biggest run of the game, owning their offensive identity as skilled shotmakers. The Stingers made it interesting in the third, being down by only eight points in the middle of the quarter. Leading the slight comeback was the stellar shooting of Florence Poirier, who was the leading scorer for the Stingers with 16 points, shooting an efficient six for 10.

Despite the valiant effort, the Martlets were relentless, locking up Concordia’s players on defence and eventually going on a vicious 11–0 run in the third quarter to head into the final frame with a 55-40 advantage.

Daniella Mbengo’s defensive and offensive efforts drastically shifted the momentum of the game, as she finished with 22 points and a game-high five steals, shooting a highly efficient 64 per cent from the field.

“We kept just being aggressive and attacking the basket because that’s our strength against Concordia and we really just wanted to win, so sticking together as a collective was really important in doing that,” Mbengo told The McGill Tribune.

In the final quarter, no hope was left for the Stingers, as the Martlets took the quarter 22-10.

“It always feels nice to win,” Salanon said. “This one was a big one for us because we showed who we really were. We played well, we played as a team, we found our shooters, so it was just a good feeling.”

Despite falling to the Stingers 47-43 in their rematch on Feb. 11, Thursday’s win was a step in the right direction for head coach Rikki Bowles. 

“This win shows how much the team has improved from the beginning of the season and also puts us in a position to clinch a play-off berth with a win this Saturday, Feb. 18 at 2 p.m., once again, against Concordia,” Bowles told the Tribune

Moment of the Game: During the Martlets’ 11-0 run in the third quarter, Daniella Mbengo made a difficult and crucial layup with her off hand that gave the Martlets the boost to finish off the third with a 15-point advantage.

Quotable: “I thought we played a great team game on Thursday, with contributions from many athletes. We were led with 22 points from first-year guard Daniella Mbengo, and we also had a great showing from third-year forward Amelie Rochon, with nine points and eight rebounds.”

––Head Coach Rikki Bowles on the standout performances  

Stat Corner: Mbengo saw 30 minutes of court time, shooting 9-for-14 from the floor and 3-for-5 from the free-throw line, and pulled together a season-high of five steals.

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