Thursday, 8 March 2007

Quebec League (QSSF) Championship Game Preview

For a comprehensive preview of the AUS Final 6 tournament beginning today in Halifax, click here

There will be a new QSSF representative at the CIS Nationals this year after defending champions UQAM Citadins were officially dethroned last weekend by Concordia in Montreal. The Stingers will face the young but rapidly improving Laval Rouge et Or which came away with a difficult victory over McGill at home last week. The game features all 5 QSSF First Team all-stars and contrasts the very athletic, tempo-pushing style that John Dore has made his team's trademarks at Concordia and the more patterned, set-oriented offensive systems combined with pressure defence in which guard typically push up on the ball that have turned the Laval program under Jacques Paiement into one of Canada's finest over the first part of this decade. Apparently the game is already a complete sellout and, with a contingent of fans making the trip down from the Quebec City area, the environment will be electric in the cozy confines of the Concordia gym in Montreal. The Stingers swept all 4 league meetings between the 2 teams including a two point win without First Team all-star Damian Buckley at Laval in early January. The largest margin of victory was 18 in the first meeting however the score is a little deceiving as Laval, playing without 6'7" J.P. Morin, behind 20 first half points from CIS Rookie-of-the-Year favorite Jean-Francois Beaulieu-Mahieux, had a 7 point halftime lead before the Stingers exploded behind a season-high 36 points from QSSF MVP Patrick Perrotte, who went to town inside & outside against a Rouge et Or team playing without bigs Morin and 6'7" Marc-Andre Cote plus 6'0" guard Dominic Savard that evening. Laval starts one of the bigger, longer lineups in the country with Morin at 6'7", 6'7" Marc-Andre Cote, 6'7" Francois-Olivier Gagnon-Hebert and 6'2" Jean-Francois Beaulieu-Mahieux which can present Concordia issues on the glass - one of their keys is to keep Morin, who averaged a double/double this season, off the glass, something the Stingers did reasonably well in the 3 games the All-Canadian from last season played against them this season (only one double/double vs. Concordia). Stingers coach John Dore, while respecting the entire Laval lineup, believes the key for his team is to "contain Morin and make him defend. He's the key to their team and we need to do a good job of containing him to win." As well, Laval's 5'10" fifth-year sharpshooter Jean-Michel LeBlanc has been much more productive from downtown down the stretch of the season so expect QSSF Defensive Player-of-the-Year Dwayne Buckley and his long arms and quickness to try to counter LeBlanc. Another interesting matchup could be between 6'2" Damian Buckley and the freshman-of-the-year candidate Beaulieu-Mahieux and his blend of strength and quickness. Expect the Stingers to make both Laval guards put the ball down under duress the entire length of the floor on most possessions. "Q" Player-of-the-Year Patrick Perrotte is a tough check for anyone given his strength inside and ability to step out beyond the 3 point line while 6'3" Ben Sormonte, who hit a huge go-ahead 3 late in the two point win in early January, will stretch Laval's aggressive, heavy-ball-pressure perimeter "d". From Laval's perspective, the Rouge et Or were in every game but typically fell victim to Concordia's big runs which, Laval coach Jacques Paiement says, is typical of a great team: "Concordia is a team that uses their experience and talent to execute at important times in games - this was the difference in all of our games - when they needed big plays, they got them." Paiement adds: "We have a tremendous amount of respect for them and they are playing great right now - our biggest thing is being mentally ready to play given that they've beaten us 4 straight times." Paiement also notes that his club is healthy again and in addition to the Big 3 of the Buckley brothers and Patrick Perrotte he also paid much respect to 6'3" Sormonte and his basketball IQ and ability to read defensive situations. Perrotte led Concordia with a 19 ppg average in 4 games against Laval while Damian Buckley averaged 18 points in the 3 games he played between the 2 teams. Morin was slightly below his season averages of 22 ppg/11 rpg against Concordia, with 20.3 points & 8.3 rebounds per game in 3 games including a 19-point, 11-rebound double/double. Expect an electric crowd and a top-notch affair as two of the better programs in the CIS over the past decade meet in an one-game sudden death match to determine the "Q" champion. The game will be webcast LIVE! by Concordia; stay tuned for further details as to how to access the webcast.

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