Closing Out The Year With Seniority

 
 

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.”

 

The Axemen Get Axed

 
 

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.”

 

The Ball Bounced Back for X-Men Basketball Team

 
 

A memorable weekend against Memorial Sea-Hawks

On Saturday February 2 the X-Men basketball team suffered a heart-wrenching loss as they trailed the Memorial Sea-Hawks in game one of their back-to-back, 82-79. Their bench gave more than a helping hand with 28 points in the game. 

In the first quarter the X-Men seemed lost and at a disadvantage as they played Memorials’ fast-paced game built on X-Men turnovers and shot attempts. Trailing in the second quarter during a close game, the X-Men held on with an increase in ball movement and off-ball screens as well as a defensive hustle from Daniel Passley that kept the X-Men within a few points of the Sea-Hawks. Passley ended the game with 10pts (points) 14reb (rebounds) and nine dreb (defensive rebounds). 

The X-men didn’t start the 2nd half off great, giving up three straight baskets and three turnovers in the first minute and thirty seconds. In addition, Emanuel Ring of the Sea-Hawks got a monster block to put the X-Men down by eight  points not long after. Although lacking effort on offence and unable to finish plays, they slowly showed signs of life and started to penetrate the Sea-Hawks defence in the paint. With under 2 minutes left in the quarter, the X-Men gained momentum by working together and stepping up their defence. Azaro Roker, #12, forced a critical turnover with a block shutting down Ring who’s currently the fourth leading scorer in AUS Men’s Basketball. Following that play, Atik Gilao of the X-Men would step in and draw the offensive foul charge, one of his many trademark attributes. 

In the fourth  quarter, it was obvious that the X-Men were still in it to win it only trailing by six. It wasn’t a big stretch and they’ve come back from worse. Great focus on passing, rebounding and ball movement led the X-Men to post their highest scoring quarter of the night. After a push from the backcourt and a couple three balls from Thomas Legallais and Justin Andrew, the X-Men were up 77-76. The following play, Nathan Barker of the Sea-Hawks would take the ball cross-country and score a bucket and foul giving them the lead 79-77;  the youngest of X fans ran the sideline chanting, “We want Defence” with only 15 seconds left. 

“I wish them the best,” said StFX student Lucas Lawrence. Even with community support, there wasn’t enough time for the X-Men to make a come back. 

On Sunday February 3 following their defeat by the Memorial Sea-Hawks the previous day, the X-Men were without Roker who suffered a knee injury. Roker averages 10 ppg, 10.5 apg at 41.8 FG %. Gilao led the way with 23 pts and 12 reb while Legallais, Tristen Ross, and Justin Andrew all scored in double digits with Andrew taking control of the rebounds with 11 and nine defensive. It was a new day and a chance at redemption for the X-Men who left their 22 turnovers behind to defeat the Sea-Hawks 88-81 in a fast-paced game that got the fans out of their seats. Unselfish passing and a tight 2-3 zone defence forced two turnovers which translated into a block from Gilao and a few trips to the free throw line. StFX started off the game with a 13-point lead and finished the first quarter with a shot clock violation by the Sea-Hawks to put the X-Men up 23-17. 

The X-Men trailed the Sea-Hawks in both the second and third quarter in points. Both squads struggled with transition offence, yet the X-Men’s patience on offence led to fewer turnovers overall. The X-Men were finally playing their game – slow, controlled, and full of passes with cuts. The third quarter was a back and forth battle, but it ended 55-54 for the X-Men. In the final frame, the X-Men lost the lead as they showed signs of fatigue; being overcrowded on offence coupled with bad shot selection and rushing the ball, the X-Men were slow getting back on defence. Making some changes on defence, their focus changed for the better as they started feeding post-players Atik Gilao and Daniel Passley who combined for five baskets and successful trips to the free throw line widening the gap to put a lid on the game. X-men won the second encounter against the Sea-Hawks 88-81. 

 

StFX Basketball: A year of surprise and disappointment

 
 

Men are riding high off a great playoff run, while the women struggle for relevance after another poor year

After ending the regular season 5th overall in the AUS with a 9-11 record, another mediocre season for Coach Konchalski seemed to be the result. However, the team got hot at the right time in the playoffs and was able to knock off Acadia in the quarters, then number one seeded Dalhousie in the semi’s. The final was a gut wrenching, tough game that saw UNB eke out an 84-81 win, ending the season for StFX. Kevin Bercy, who competed for team Canada over the summer during the Universiade in Chinese Taipei, had a vicious 33-point effort in his final game ever for the X-Men. 

For the Women, it was a fourth straight year in the cellar of the AUS standings. It was also back to back years of a 1-19 record. The team has been a combined 10-70 in the last four years. At the crux of the issue is the lack of a true star on the team. The leading scorer on the year was freshman guard Kimberly Kingsbury at 7.3 PPG. Kingsbury was also named the AUS all rookie team this year. Luckily, the team is very young, as only one player graduates this year. With another year together, the hope is to claw out of last place, and become a team that is feared by others. The bereft of talent this year will hopefully decrease through another year of skill development. 

In his sixth year as head coach, Augy Jones was attempting to bring the team back to what he had in his first two seasons, which were back-to-back AUS final appearances. The recruitment of point guard Lucia Mackay for next year will hopefully form a potent tandem with Kingsbury. Unfortunately, he will not be around to see it, as he was relieved of his coaching duties on Monday March 12th. There is hope for growth from Center Katie MacIntosh, who at 6’2 provides size that the team clearly lacks. Having a consistent presence in the paint from Katie would help accentuate the strengths of the guards, most notably shooting. The team will have to count on leadership from impending seniors Jamie McCarron and Holly Scott, who were also second and third in scoring for the team. 

It is the end of an era for the men’s team, as the team loses it’s top two players, Julius Antoine and Kevin Bercy. Antoine averaged 17-4-3 on the year, while Bercy had 16.8 pts and 9.2 rebound averages. Center anchor Cameron Walker is also graduating, along with fifth year point guard Davonte Provo. 

The reigns of the team will be most likely handed to third year sharpshooter Tristen Ross, who averaged a scintillating 39.2% on threes this year. The emergence of freshman Point Guard Jaydan Smith this year gives the team a consistent presence at the one position for years to come. Sophomore guard Justin Andrew has also impressed this year, including a rollicking 29 point/7 three performance in the semi-finals against defending champion Dalhousie. High flying forward Azaro Roker will have to find consistency next year, as he will be tasked with more minutes. 

With a new court, and upgrades to the Oland Center on the horizon, there is an anticipation for an increase in recruitment for both teams. Coach Konchalski will be entering his 43rd season next year and for many, the monotony of a coach’s style can wear down players and desensitize the fans, something that K will be trying to fend off, as his retirement looms on the horizon. Augy Jones’ replacement has yet to be named, though the search for a new head coach has already begun.

 

Your 2018 NCAA March Madness Primer

 
 

The most exciting tournament in college sport is upon us, buckle up.

68 of the best college basketball teams in division 1 colleges and universities in the United States compete every year in March for the right to be crowned champion.

The tournament has 32 teams that are winners of their respective conferences along with 36 more teams that win an ‘at-large’ bid. At-large meaning that a committee of individuals pick them based on record, level of competition, and all-around ability.  The tournament occurs during a three-weekend period, beginning on the 13th of March.

The single elimination style makes every game a necessity to win, and this leads way to numerous upsets and ‘madness’.

Last year’s winner was the North Carolina Tar Heels, led by senior Joel Berry II and now departed Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson (15th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft).

This year, there is a whole host of teams with the ability to make big runs in March.

Favorites:

Virginia Cavaliers The current number one team in the nation is led by their vaunted ‘pack line’ defense, which is predicated on heavy team instilled abilities, with a reliance on packing the paint to prevent interior shots. The team is number one currently in points per game allowed, more than 5 points higher then the number two team. Sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome are the key cogs in the team, with freshman De’Andre Hunter providing timely buckets.

Duke Blue Devils For Coach Krzyzewski, whom is in his 38th season at Duke, consistency and excellence is the main prerogative. This year is no different, as basketball resident villain Grayson Allen attempts to bring Duke back to where he was his freshman year, an NCAA champion. Luckily, he has help, with projected top five pick Marvin Bagley III (21 PPG, 11.5 RPG) along with surefire NBA prospects Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter Jr. Though they have underperformed, with seven losses on the year, one cannot take them lightly with their immense amount of sheer talent.

Xavier Musketeers Led by senior guard Trevon Bluiett with 19.5 PPG, Xavier fields arguably it’s most talented team ever, as coach Chris Mack looks for his first final four appearance. Feisty J.P Macura, along with Turkish born and brother of NBA player Enes Kanter; Kerem Kanter provides the Musketeers with complimentary scoring and lock down defense.

Dark Horses:

Cincinnati Bearcats In Mick Cronin’s 12 years under the Cincinnati program, his team has consistently been ranked as one of the best defensive teams, however If the Bearcats look to return to the Final Four for the first time since 1992, it will be because of their offense from senior forward Gary Clark and sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland. In the four losses on the year, Clark has shot a combined 16-40 from the field.

Missouri Tigers In one of the most interesting college basketball stories of the year, projected top five pick in this years NBA draft Michael Porter Jr. was supposed to lead this team to a high seed in the tournament. However, a mysterious back injury has plagued him all year. He recently returned last week and played his first game since their season opener in November. While his stat line left much to be desired (5-17 from the field), his mere presence could elevate the play of his teammates, most notably his brother Jontay Porter who has had a quietly productive year, averaging 10 pts and 7 assists.

Wild Card:

Arizona Wildcats It has been a crazy, almost unbelievable season for the Wildcats as they have been marred by FBI probes and failed drug tests. What is certain is 7’1, 250lb behemoth Deandre Ayton (who is only 19!) and his 20 pts and 11 rebounds that he provides for the team on a daily. Coach Sean Miller, who was initially reported to have been embroiled in a corruption scandal pertaining to the paying of recruits, is looking to scrub the negativity off his program and take them to a Final Four. Junior guard Allonzo Trier (18.7 PPG) was suspended earlier in the year for a failed drug test, but has been cleared recently, which greatly benefits the team.

Mid Major Hopefuls:

A mid-major program is one whom is in a conference that is not considered high quality. These teams typically play a low SOS (strength of schedule) during the regular season and as a result, tend to only get into the tournament by winning their conference.

Davidson Wildcats The tiny college in North Carolina, home to less than 2000 students had an incredible conference tournament run. They knocked off the Rhode Island Rams to claim the Atlantic 10 title and as a result, vaulted them into the field for March. They were 12-2 in their last 14 games, led by senior Peyton Aldridge and his 21.8 PPG. Coach Bob McKillop will hope to rekindle some magic from his best season at Dayton where a young point guard by the name of Steph Curry lit the tournament on fire, taking the school to it’s first and only Elite Eight appearance in 2008. They will be in tough in Round One where they will face a young Kentucky team chock full of former McDonald All Americans.

                The tournament ‘officially’ kicks off on Thursday March 15th with 16 games on the docket. So, kick back, procrastinate from school and watch the madness unfold!