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Laval Rouge et Or shock top-ranked Victoria Vikes in U Sports Final 8 quarter-finals

In a monumental upset, the eighth-seeded Laval Rouge et Or shocked the number one seed Victoria Vikes in the 2024 U Sports Final 8 quarter-finals.

Laval Rouge et Or guard Steeve Joseph (5) celebrates with teammate Baba Yao (22) following the shocking 75-69 win over top-ranked Victoria Vikes at the 2024 U Sports Final 8 Championships at the PEPS sports complex in Quebec City.
Laval Rouge et Or guard Steeve Joseph (5) celebrates with teammate Baba Yao (22) following the shocking 75-69 win over top-ranked Victoria Vikes at the 2024 U Sports Final 8 Championships at the PEPS sports complex in Quebec City - Photo: Laval Rouge et Or

In a surprising turn of events at The PEPS sports complex in Quebec City, the Laval Rouge et Or, seeded eighth, etched their names into U Sports history by orchestrating a colossal upset against the top-ranked Victoria Vikes.

The 75-69 victory in the quarter-finals of the 2024 U Sports Final 8 tournament marked a significant milestone for the Laval program, securing one of their most substantial wins to date.

Facing an early deficit, Laval turned the tide and ignited the home crowd, seizing an 8-5 lead with a clutch three-point shot from Sidney Tremblay-Lacombe with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Holding the three-time Canada West defending champions to a mere eleven points in the opening quarter, Laval established a commanding double-digit lead of 21-11 after the initial ten minutes, setting the stage for a memorable upset.

Displaying no signs of a team that entered the national championships with only six conference wins, Laval executed their offensive sets to perfection. They made multiple backdoor cuts, producing wide-open lay-ups and limited the Vikes to long perimeter shots, resulting in plenty of turnovers and maintaining a 36-32 halftime advantage.

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Laval rookie willem mwanza throws down a big two hand slam dunk to help the rouge et or defeat top ranked victoria vikes at 2024 usports mens final 8 championships in quebec city
2023-24 Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) rookie of the year, Willem Mwanza throws down a big two-hand slam dunk to help the Rouge et Or defeat top-ranked Victoria Vikes at the 2024 U Sports men’s final 8 championships in Quebec City – Photo: Laval Athletics

As the late-arriving crowd of nearly 3,000 fans filled the Amphithéâtre-gymnase Desjardins for the second half, the Rouge et Or ignited the third quarter by converting their first three shot attempts. Riding the wave of momentum, they surged to a game-high 13-point lead at 50-37 with 5:58 remaining in the third quarter and sustained it at 56-49 as the game entered the final ten minutes.

Facing the prospect of their second Final 8 quarter-final loss in the last three years, the Vikes exhibited minimal resistance on the defensive end until the final minute of the game. In a late-game defensive stand, they managed to string together three consecutive stops.

Capitalizing on this push, they narrowed the Rouge et Or lead to 72-69 on a made three-pointer by Montreal native Renoldo Robinson and a strong drive to the basket by Diego Maffia.

On the subsequent possession, presented with an opportunity to narrow the lead or potentially tie the game, the Vikes faltered in execution. Their attempt, marked by a contested three-pointer and a missed lay-up off the offensive rebound, failed to materialize.

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Compelled to foul and extend the game, the Vikes sent the Rouge et Or to the foul line, marking the decisive moments that sealed the final points of the contest.

Five-foot-eight guard Steeve Joseph emerged as a standout performer for Laval, contributing 17 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Tremblay-Lacome drilled a team-high with four three-pointers, concluding the game with 14 points and four assists.

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Sidney tremblay lacombe celebrates at center court after the laval rouge et or defeated the top ranked victoria vikes at the 2024 u sports mens final 8 championship tournament
Sidney Tremblay-Lacombe celebrates at center court after the Laval Rouge et Or defeated the top-ranked Vctoria Vikes at the 2024 U Sports men’s Final 8 championship tournament – Photo: Laval Rouge et Or

Ismael Diouf recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Haris Elezovic added to the momentum with 10 points and eight rebounds. RSEQ rookie of the year, Willem Mwanza, displayed his versatility with 8 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, further solidifying Laval’s team effort.

Victoria’s offensive display was spearheaded by Diego Maffia, the 2024 U Sports player of the year, who scored 26 points on 11-of-25 shooting. Second-year and shifty left-handed guard Renoldo Robinson made a significant impact off the bench, contributing 16 points, including 9-of-11 free throws, while Elias Ralph added 11 points and six rebounds in a losing performance.

In a closely contested rebounding battle, both teams finished with an even 44-44 tally. However, Laval’s efficient ball movement stood out, as they recorded 17 assists on 30-of-79 field goal attempts, compared to Victoria’s seven assists on 22-of-67 attempts and 20 turnovers.

This historic upset now joins the ranks of only three other instances in the past two decades when the eighth seed conquered the top seed: 2022, 2007, and 2000.

Notably, in 2022, the Saskatchewan Huskies (77-73) defeated the Brock Badgers in the quarter-finals and advanced to the gold medal with an 86-60 win over Queens before falling to Carleton 85-72 in the title game.

In 2007, the Saint Mary’s Huskies upset the top-ranked Concordia Stingers 63-62, and in 2000, the Brandon Bobcats surprised the Alberta Golden Bears with a 73-57 victory. They proceeded to beat Western 61-58 in the semi-finals before falling to St. FX 61-60 in the finals.

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The Rouge et Or now advance to their third national semi-final, marking their first appearance since 2003. The upcoming challenge awaits against the fourth-seeded Dalhousie Tigers in the second semi-final. Meanwhile, the Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Queens Gaels are set to renew their rivalry for the third time this season, vying for a coveted spot in the title game.

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Hosted by Laval, the 2024 U Sports men’s basketball championships mark the first time an RSEQ team and the province of Quebec have hosted the national championship.

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