X-Men finish the regular season on a high note
The AUS playoffs around the corner and their position locked in, our X-Men, ready to end the regular season off strong were focused on their final encounter against UPEI. They would end up winning 95-80 and closed out their series with UPEI 2-0, finishing the regular season 7-13. All of the starters scored in double digits with Thomas Legallais (13pts, 11rbs), Azaro Roker (13pts, 10rbs), and Daniel Passley (23pts, 11rbs) all netting double-doubles. This was Passley’s eighth double-double of the season.
For the seniors of the team Passley, Tristen Ross, and Brandon Velocci this would mark their last time throwing on the blue and white jerseys at home. Senior Night began with Coach K giving a speech and framed photographs to the seniors as a token of appreciation for their four/five-year contribution to the program. Playing in their last home game., there was nostalgic memories of games won and lost that would last a lifetime. Seniors Passley and Ross had a few things to say. “I was definitely taking it all in, the memories of many achievements and shortcomings; being grateful for all of the lessons they taught me. I was real anxious and nervous to give the rookies a chance to taste the experience of AUS playoff basketball. I felt that as a captain and senior, I owed them that,” Passley stated. As for Ross, he shared similar sentiments preparing for the game. “Senior night was a celebration of all the time I had spent in that gym as a kid at X camp and my time here as a student. My Dad was in attendance that night which was special as he too played for Coach K, so really it was a celebration of that connection between us and Coach K. It was special.”
Ross returned after suffering a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder eight games earlier, making even the thought of shooting unbearable. He sadi he “spent the entire week in therapy just focusing on getting to play in my last game on Coach K court. Thankfully I was able to play with only some mild discomfort and credit goes out to our wonderful therapy staff here at school for helping me get there.”
Preceding the start of the game, our X-Men looked healthy and ready to play as they warmed up by throwing down some monstrous dunks, giving the fans a preview of what was to come. To start it off, the X-Men got the first points of the night to put them on the score board, already setting the pace for what was to be a high scoring game. From nice inside bounce passes to steals and two trips to the free throw line, the X-Men made it known that they meant business. They were spreading the floor, which allowed them to get into their sweet spots. However, they started to feel a little too comfortable by not closing out on the baseline and making lazy passes. They tried to shake it off with extra ball movement but found themselves idling on offence, forcing Coach K to call timeout. Legallais would shoot a floater in the last seconds of the quarter to beat the clock and put X up 17-11.
Shaking off the final minutes of the first quarter the X-men regained both offense and defense efficiency from the start of the game. Leading the way in the second quarter, the backcourt players forced a few steals essentially changing the pace from slow and controlled to a run- and- gun style basketball game that got everyone in the stands excited. Relentlessly pushing the ball and working it down low our X-Men compelled UPEI to take a time-out. Continuing the attack, Justin Andrew used his body to penetrate down low in the post for the and-one basket. Following that play Roker tried to catch a body with an attempted poster but was fouled. Four minutes left in the quarter a spark was lit under Jack MacAulay, a UPEI third-year guard who showed the X-Men that the game wasn’t over as he splashed heavily guarded deep threes. This would be the X-Men’s highest scoring quarter with 30 points, ending the half 47-31 for the home team.
UPEI started the second half slow and were unable to get a flow going. With the X-Men’s cooperation and understanding of what needed to be done it was clear that the game was in their hands. Post-players Roker and Passley put in some work down low with Passley using his footworkto makr it look easy while Roker dunked on a player, getting redemption for his last attempt. UPEI then called timeout. The timeout was in vain as Ross scored two threes in a row and Andrew gave the fans a peak into his toolbag with a gorgeous euro-step for two. Nothing in the way of a W for the X-Men, it seemed the game was in the bag, until MacAulay scored back-to-back threes and added another one to end the quarter with X fans saying, “man can’t miss.” They would end the quarter up 73-61 with MacAulay finishing the night shooting 71% from the field and 77% from the three-point line.
In the final quarter UPEI was met with the same tougness by our X-Men. They showcased their versatility—with the post-players setting screens for each other, popping out to the three-point line and Passley hitting a three. Roker’s athleticism was displayed with a rim-rattling dunk that left one young fan screaming, “it’s still shaking!” The game was getting more physical with players shoving and pulling jerseys. This led to Moshe Wadley of UPEI fouling out, putting Ross to the free throw-line and making both. Our X-Men saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and finished the game with a 95-80 victory.
Passley had a few last words for the X community. “I am very appreciative of the support from the community and everybody making me feel welcome here. Thank you to the fans, alumni and many other supporters who always made me feel upbeat no matter what. Win or lose, there was always love and support that I will always be thankful for.”