The Stingers trip to Israel was sold as both a basketball and educational experience.
On the first day of competition in Beer Sheva they had both.
There was the basketball- two games, played back-to-back.
And there was the education, coming in the form of a hard lesson that the Stingers can’t afford to take any team too lightly.
On the first day of round robin play, the Stingers beat the host team Ben Gurion University 66-44, only to follow it up with a disappointing 59-57 loss to Serbia (Concordia is known here as Team Canada).
The competition does in fact seem to be below what the Stingers are used to, but that may have led to some overconfidence on their part.
Concordia came into the gym, with a look and swagger that no other team could match.
Complete with its warm-up suits, and pre-game rituals, the Stingers looked like pros.
None of that seemed to matter though against a Serbian team that just wouldn’t go away.
They got in the Stingers’ heads thanks to a physical game, combined with shoddy officiating.
Twice it appeared that a brawl could breakout, onlookers having to come in from the sidelines to break players apart.
I quickly realized why so many fights and controversies take place in international hockey.
Get two competing teams who don’t share a common language, and bring them to a foreign country. Throw in a pair of referees who also don’t speak the language of either team, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for disaster.
To the Serbs credit, in typical European form they were able to shoot the ball very well.
Three straight three-pointers in the final 90 seconds proved to be the difference.
Stinger coach John Dore was not amused, suggesting that after a weekend in Tel Aviv, some players had forgotten the true purpose of their trip.
The players themselves were equally frustrated with the loss, and are already looking forward to a rematch.
Following the win, the Serbs danced around center court, while the Stingers could only sit and watch.
“Remember this feeling,” Dore told his team. “Don’t let it happen again.”