The St. F.X. X-Men wrapped-up their pre-Christmas regular season schedule with a pair of key victories.
After besting the Acadia Axemen and Cape Breton Capers, on back-to-back nights, the Blue and White improved their Atlantic University Sport (AUS) record to 3-4.
“We started out with a tough schedule,” X-Men head coach Steve Konchalski said, noting opening defeats, in a home-and-home, with the defending conference champion Dalhousie Tigers.
“They were playing great basketball, coming off a strong pre-season.”
He added they presented match-up challenges the X-Men hope “to rectify over time.”
The next defeat – a three-point home loss to the Acadia Axemen, according to Konchalski, “put us in a hole.”
After a road split with the Memorial SeaHawks in St. John’s, the X-Men were 1-4.
“We had to re-evaluate what we were doing – both on and off the court,” Konchalski said.
“It is not the start that we had hoped for, but to our credit we have rallied.”
That bounce back began with an 80-78 victory over the then undefeated and league-leading Axemen, Nov. 24, at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
“It was a great win – a tremendous confidence booster,” Konchalski said, adding the X-Men played “some outstanding basketball.”
Fifth-year point guard Davonte Provo led the X-Men with 16 points, while adding four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Julius Antoine chipped in 10 points, seven steals, three assists and three rebounds, while Tristen Ross, off the bench, scored 11, including three three-pointers.
On the next night (Nov. 25), on Coach K Court at Oland Centre, six X-Men scored in double digits in a 108-99 win over the rival Capers.
“We showed great fortitude, coming off an emotional win,” Konchalski said, noting the Capers were “fresh,” after not playing the previous day.
“They gave us everything they had,” he added.
The X-Men played the high-scoring affair without All-Canadian forward Kevin Bercy, who sat out with a foot injury.
“At this point, they think it is a bone bruise,” Konchalski said, in a Nov. 28 interview.
He explained that Bercy was hurt on the second-to-last play of the Acadia match-up, when one of their big men fell on the foot.
Against the Capers, Ross meshed a team-high 23 points, while adding three rebounds and three assists.
Antoine and Provo contributed 20 points apiece, with the latter adding eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“Davonte did a great job and had two tremendous games,” Konchalski said, noting the East Preston native garnered player-of-the-game honours in both match-ups.
Cameron Walker contributed a double-double – 17 points and 13 rebounds – while adding three assists.
Justin Andrew added 14 points, while Daniel Passley – off the bench – chipped in 10 points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal.
“Clearly, still, our defense is the challenge,” Konchalski said, when asked about where the X-Men have to improve heading into the second half.
Noting they are in fourth place, he added, the three clubs ahead of the X-Men surrender from 70 to 78 points-per-game, while they give up in the high-80s.
“The talent is there, but we need to improve our ‘D’ to contend for a championship in March,” Konchalski said.