The St. F.X. X-Men basketball team had the Shoveller Memorial Invitational Basketball Tournament title within reach but, in the final quarter, the host Dalhousie Tigers reached with a little more assertiveness and claimed a come-from-behind victory.
The Tigers, led by tournament most valuable player Alex Carson and all-star Sacha Kappos, outscored the X-Men 23-6 in the fourth quarter to record a 73-65 win.
The game was played at the Dalplex Dec. 31, the traditional location and date for the annual holiday tournament.
“We played hard but Dal is a tough team; they know how to win,” X-Men senior forward Kevin Bercy, a tournament all-star, said.
“I think that is what we need to learn from this game; how to execute down the stretch and win these types of games.”
Bercy’s stat line for the game was an impressive 24 points and 10 rebounds. His strong performance was complimented by guard Tristen Ross who netted 14 points, including four-for-seven from beyond the three-point line, while being named St. F.X.’s player of the game.
Also talking after the game, X head coach Steve Konchalski expressed his disappointment with the team’s inability to capitalize on three solid quarters of basketball.
“We kicked it away,” the veteran coach said.
“It was a game we controlled and it’s very disappointing with the way we played the last five or six minutes. We scored six points in the fourth quarter; obviously Dalhousie stepped up their defense but we didn’t react to it at all.”
Noting the team beat rivals Acadia and St. Mary’s in advancing to the final versus the defending AUS champion Tigers, Konchalski said it’s a sign of strides by his team, but still a disappointing conclusion to the tournament.
“We didn’t get to where we wanted,” he said.
“We’re a good enough team to win this tournament and we had the game in hand and kicked it away. Dalhousie, down the stretch, executed a lot better than we did, so it’s disappointing coming away without the tournament championship.”
Bercy was asked about the overall tournament, as well.
“Those were two big wins,” he said. “We played off the momentum of how we finished the first half of the season; we finished on a two-game winning streak so we continued that.”
One of those games didn’t feature Bercy who sat out with an injury.
“I’m feeling good; my body is still a little hurt but I’m feeling pretty good,” Bercy said.
Konchalski talked about last year’s AUS MVP, who also suited up for Canada at the Summer Universiade Games in Chinese Taipei, last summer.
“Kevin had a good start against Acadia; against St. Mary’s last night didn’t play his best, but came back today with a really strong effort,” Konchalski said.
“After his outstanding year last year, teams are game planning around him; they’re double teaming him and loading up their defenses to stop him. He is working his way through it, trying to figure out how he can capitalize on some of the strategies they’re using against him.”
Bercy talked about finishing out his X-Men career with a title.
“It’s my last year, so I want to finish it with a championship,” he said.
The X-Men opened the tournament with a 90-87 overtime win versus the Axemen, who finished the first-half in second place in the AUS standings.
Bercy earned X-Men player of the game with a double-double performance (19 points and 11 rebounds), while Azaro Roker’s three-point play, with a little more than a minute to play, was key to the blue-and-white victory.
The win moved St. F.X. to a semifinal match-up with the Huskies the following day.
The X-Men led throughout the game and held off a late SMU rally for an 88-82 win.
Player of the game for St. F.X. was guard Julius Antoine who recorded 22 points to go along with eight rebounds.
Small forward Nick Russell added 14 points for the X-Men.