Antigonish, NS - The StFX X-Men defeated the visiting UPEI Panthers 72-71 in dramatic fashion in a close game on Coach K Court Friday evening, much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd in StFX's home opener.
The first quarter was a rather nervous affair with both teams looking to find their flow. The player who looked most at ease was StFX freshman guard Avan Nava (Mississauga, ON) who had great composure with the ball in hand and contributing seven key points.
For the Panthers, Elijah Miller (Etobicoke, ON) gave an excellent demonstration (as he did throughout the game) of point guard play. He controlled the tempo of the game and made important shots. The Panthers took a slender 21-18 lead going into the second quarter.
UPEI found their shooting range from beyond the arc in the second quarter going four-for-nine and building a 43-33 lead going into the halftime break.
Dakelle Brooks (East Preston, NS) and rookie Kamari Scott (Mississauga, ON) led the way for the Panthers. For the X-Men Azaro Roker (Nassau, Bahamas) maintained his concentration after having a bit of bad luck in the first quarter as balls went just off his finger-tips to start the game.
If 13 is considered by most an unlucky number, the unluckiest number in basketball must surely be the ten-point half-time lead, just ask the Panthers. The Panthers came out of the break flying and increased their lead to 17, before X began to reel them in.
Roker began to make his shots and asserted his dominance in the paint. The StFX defence tightened up and the Panthers no longer had the open looks, and fluidity their offensive sets showed began to evaporate. The X-Men ended the quarter with a precarious 57-56 lead.
The fourth quarter was a tense affair with both young teams showing nerves. The Panthers once again started the quarter the better shooting team as they built up a ten-point lead.
Jack MacAulay (Charlottetown, PE) hit two key three-pointers that gave hope to the Panthers faithful that a win was there for the taking.
The X-Men, inspired by the enthusiastic crowd, clawed their way back. Roker found his form at the foul line and Nava made a key basket and was calmness personified at the line.
It was now time for Justin Andrew (Hamilton, ON), to show the young players what it takes to be a top AUS player. Andrew, with 29 seconds remaining, nailed a long-range jumper to give the X-Men a 72-71 lead. The Panthers called time-out and ran a good set, but the ball took an X bounce off the rim in the dying seconds to deny the Panthers a precious away victory.
Andrew finished with 14 points on the night and took home Subway player of the game honours. Roker had a big double-double night for the X-Men with 17 points and 14 rebounds and Nava finished with 11 points.
For the Panthers, Brooks was the leading scorer with 15 points on the night, including four from three-point range. Miller had 13 and MacAulay contributed 12.
The same two squads will be back in action again Saturday night on Coach K Court for a re-match. Tip-off is 8:00 pm.
Recap courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Sports Information
Photos by Bryan Kennedy