Redmen cagers win provincial title, punch ticket to nationals

Team captain Vincent Dufort of Smiths Falls, Ont, led McGill with 21 points as the top-seeded Redmen captured their third Quebec crown in four years with a 78-67 victory over visiting UQAM, Saturday before a sold-out, single-game record crowd of 848 at Love Competition Hall.
On Saturday, the Redmen basketball team won its third RSEQ championship in four years. / Photo: Derek Drummond

By Kirsten Whelan (Source: McGill Athletics and Recreation)

Team captain Vincent Dufort of Smiths Falls, Ont, led McGill with 21 points as the top-seeded Redmen captured their third Quebec crown in four years with a 78-67 victory over visiting UQAM, Saturday, at the RSEQ Final Four tournament, presented by Milk 2 Go Sport, before a sold-out, single-game record crowd of 848 at Love Competition Hall.

The three-day tourney, drew 3,458 fans to the facility which has a seating capacity of 848.

The Redmen not only claim the provincial banner, but also qualify to the CIS Final Eight national championship, which will take place in Vancouver, B.C., March 17-20.

Dufort, a physical education student, shot 7-for-13 from the floor, including 1-for-3 from the three-point range, and sank six of eight free throw attempts. He pulled down eight rebounds, had a game-high six assists, and stole two balls.

“I can’t describe it, it feels amazing,” said the 6-foot-4 shooting guard. “It’s just an amazing bunch of guys and it’s so awesome to be able to win it for them and for coach. He does so much for our team, it’s awesome to leave on a good note for him.

“I just decided there was no way I was going out losing in my home gym,” he continued, with regards to his stand-out performance. “That’s it, I just wasn’t going to accept losing in front of that home crowd. I think sometimes when the team starts off a little bit slow, maybe they need somebody to look to to pick it up for them, and then they can feed off that. I was trying to be a bit more aggressive and take something on my shoulders, so then maybe they can follow after that.”

Head coach David DeAveiro had plenty of praise for his fifth-year senior. “I wanted to get Vinny off the floor,” he offered, explaining why Dufort was subbed out as the clock ran down. “I wanted everyone to recognise him and what he’s done for our program for five years. He deserved that ovation from the crowd.”

Three other Redmen also reached double figures in scoring. Dele Ogundokun of Hamilton, Ont., scored 15 points, nabbed five rebounds, and had four assists and two steals. He shot 4-for-9 from the field, including 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, and netted four of six free throws. Michael Peterkin of Toronto grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and added 11 points. He was 5-for-8 from the floor and 1-for-3 from the line, and was credited with an assist and a steal. Jenning Leung, a 6-foot-1 guard from the Philippines, scored 13 points and brought down five rebounds. He shot 5-for-16 from the floor and sank three of nine treys, and had three assists and two steals.

“(Jenning and I) had a conversation today and I told him just to go home and visualize him making shots today,” said DeAveiro. “He’s been struggling a lot, I think putting way too much pressure on himself, so I just told him to go home and relax and visualize himself making big shots, being the point guard and leading his team to a championship, and he came through today.”

The Citadins led 18-13 after the first quarter, but the Redmen picked it up in the second and took a 38-33 advantage into the half. They maintained a 56-52 edge after three before outscoring their guests 22-15 in the final frame.

“We got off to a pretty good start,” said UQAM head coach Nate Philippe. “One of the things than McGill does extremely well is rebound the ball offensively, and that’s when they started getting into a rhythm. There was a period where they got four or five offensive rebounds in a row in a three-minute spurt. A couple times we secured defensive rebounds and they deflected it out of our hands … When you give a very good team that many second opportunities, it’s very tough.”

Kewyn Blain of St. Leonard, Que., led UQAM with 24 points and collected six rebounds. He was followed by Yassin Debache of Tunisia with 14 points and a half-dozen rebounds, and Greishe Clerjuste of Montreal, who registered 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

“That was very good team, a well-coached team,” commented DeAveiro. “Nate’s done an amazing job with his team. We knew we’d have a tough time controlling their guards because they’re so good, they can score in so many ways. We had to change our defence up a couple times and give them a few different looks, and then we just started making shots again. That kind of changed the complexion of the game, and Noah Daoust in there was blocking some shots and keeping Kewyn from getting to the rim, so I thought that made a big difference.”

“Credit goes to McGill and to David DeAveiro,” added Philippe. “It’s a phenomenal program, and I’m rooting for them at nationals – they’re going to represent the league well.”

For his part, DeAveiro – whose players doused him with an ice bucket in celebration – deflected praise to his staff.

“You win these coach of the year awards,” he said, “but people behind the scenes – your assistant coaches, your managers, your therapists – they never get enough credit. Without them, we don’t have the success and I don’t have the success. I can’t tell you how hard my staff works. They’re amazing, we wouldn’t be here without them. They deserve a lot of credit, and they don’t get it.”

McGill had a 38-31 rebounding advantage and a 6-1 lead in blocks, while the Citadins took a 9-7 edge in steals. Both teams allowed 16 turnovers.

The Redmen shot 43.1 per cent from the floor (28/65) and 9-for-24 from the three-point range for 37.5 per cent. They went 13-for-21 from the free throw line (61.9 per cent). UQAM shot 33.9 per cent (20/59), made five of 19 from beyond the arc for 26.3 per cent, and sank 22 of 25 opportunities from the stripe.

McGill will open its Final Eight tournament on Thursday at the UBC Doug Mitchell Sports Centre.

“When you get to the nationals you’re playing against the best teams in the country,” noted DeAveiro with an eye towards the championship. “What we’re going to do is get ready and prepare our team. I think our team believes that they belong in that championship and can play with the rest of the team in the country. I think we proved that early in our season.”

“It’s going to take an entire team effort,” added Dufort. “I think we have the talent to do it. If everyone comes together, we play hard on defence, and we trust each other, I think we can come home with it.”

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