Buzzer beating three keeps the X-Men alive in the fight for playoffs
On February 6, our X-Men basketball team were ready for battle when they faced off against the Acadia Axemen, winning a tough game 75-72 and ending their regular season matchup 2-0. In their second encounter against the Axemen, a familiar face to the town of Antigonish returned, the Axemen Forward Temitayo Shittu (Tayo) #21, who was a StFX Alumni and a former X-Men in his first year at StFX.
It was the second game in a row that Azaro Roker has missed due to a knee injury, however he’s very hopeful for a quick return and to reunite with his team. “Yeah my knee injury isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I got a bone scan, and everything was fine, there was just some swelling, I think that I’ll be playing by the time of the last game of the season.”
Playing the last placed team Acadia with only four more games left in the season, the X-Men had to use their home court advantage and leave it all on the court, as they played a hard and resilient game throughout. This win over the Axemen on Wednesday would change the AUS standings, placing them above the Memorial Sea-Hawks and raising morale for the X-Men, in hopes of clinching a playoff spot and establishing themselves as AUS championship contenders.
To start off the game the X-Men were in a groove, with great inside passing coming from the guards and defensive rebounds (drb) from Daniel Passley, who padded his stat sheet for the night with 15 points (pts), 10 drbs, two assists (ast), one steal (stl) and one block (blk). The X-Men were able to convert their hustle into a few trips to the line. Unfortunately this wouldn’t last, with hurried attempts coming early in the shot clock, weak perimeter defence (allowing 11 three-point attempts) and Justin Andrew (#6) suffering a minor ankle injury early in the first. The X-Men would end the quarter down 19-12.
Continuing their aggressive attacking offense in the second quarter the Axemen relentlessly penetrated down low through the baseline with their forwards, making cuts and switches. This allowed Tayo to sneak in eight easy points. The X-Men switched to play a zone defence, with its goal to close-out the perimeter gaps. However, they were unable to stop deep threes from Nick De Palma, who’s range in knocking down the long ball resembled NBA superstar Stephen Curry. De Palma would end the night shooting 66% from beyond the arc.
Not long after, the X-Men increased their intensity on defence and adjusted their strategy by executing a full-court press on Acadia, which immediately garnered results as they would force a shot clock violation. On the offensive end the Axemen continued to close out on defence, making it difficult for X to create good shots. With four minutes left on the clock and the shot clock running down Andrew was forced to take a deep three which he made while being fouled, giving him the four-point play. The X-Men ended the quarter strong with great ball movement and a slick behind the back pass from Nick McKee to Andrew for the three bomb. The X-Men ended the half with Acadia up 36-32 and the lead within their grasp.
Starting out the third, the X-Men played unusually bad defence which allowed Acadia to walk right in for easy layups. However, X-Men post player Daniel Passley brought out his bag of tricks and with tight “D” on him threw up a nice sky hook to close the gap to 38-40. With a switch in lineup, the X-Men had three guards which made it a run-and-gun game, allowing for more ball movement and flexibility on the court. This led to more opportunities to make some triples. The lead was within reach and tensions were rising as the big men were aggressive and muscling through contact in the post. They began shoving each other to claim dominance down low with Atik Gilao yelling “You can’t guard me” after being fouled.
Trailing 50-51 to Acadia the X-Men remained strong on both ends of the court, with great cutting, switches on offence and playing a united help defence this would be the turning point for X, with Tristan Ross #5 sacrificing his body for the charge. On the next play Passley used his footwork beautifully on a bounce step that led to a ferocious dunk. The energy was palpable in the arena and not long after, X-Men forward McKee went up for a board but was viciously fouled and put into a headlock by Tayo, which led to both teams getting in the middle of the altercation and separating the two players. They both received technical fouls, which led to Tayo fouling out.
As pressure was rising the X-Men responded admirably by playing their slow and controlled game, with Ross and McKee each draining deep threes when X needed it the most. Up by one and the X-Men in control of the ball, the guards worked it in the post, passing it to Passley who was then fouled. He made both free throws, putting X up 3. Acadia’s guard De Palma, who made his presence felt in the 1st half, drained another three pointer which tied the game with six seconds left. Time was running out and Andrew fought through contact getting the ball down the court. He displayed his court vision and playmaking ability by passing it to Jayden Smith #4 in the corner, who ultimately sealed the victory with a clutch buzzer beating 3 that Coach K said, “was the best assist all season.”