Defense – that was the first word from veteran head coach Steve Konchalski, when asked about the keys to playoff success for the St. F.X. X-Men.
“We can score with any team in the conference, if not the country,” he said, “but, to challenge for a conference [Atlantic University Sport (AUS)] championship, we need to be better on that end of the floor,” he said.
After dropping a 15-point decision to the defending conference champions three days earlier [Jan. 22] on Coach K Court at Oland Centre, the X-Men scored a convincing 91-64 victory over the Dalhousie Tigers, Jan. 26, in Halifax.
“I think it was our best game of the year – on both ends of the court,” Konchalski said, noting the team’s “poor performance” in the 95-80 loss.
“We came out really flat in that game, at home, so we had to do some soul-searching and come up with an answer, which we did,” he added.
Konchalski pointed to the X-Men’s defensive performance in the victory, having surrendered only 64 points, including 25 in the first half.
“In the short-term, we responded and took it to them, which is something we are going to have to continue to be successful,” he said.
Julius Antoine meshed a game-best 20 points, including five three-pointers, while adding five rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Kevin Bercy contributed 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds to complete a double-double effort.
“They have to be our leaders,” Konchalski said of the fifth-year duo, while agreeing they came up with a strong effort.
He stressed the decisive victory was a “total team effort.”
Azaro Roker, who got the starting nod, added nine points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
“It was, probably, his best game as an X-Man,” Konchalski said.
He noted Roker not only blocked two shots, but also “contested” several others from the Tigers.
“Azaro was our rim protector,” Konchalski said.
Veteran point guard Davonte Provo chipped in eight points, nine assists and three rebounds.
“He is coming off an injury and was a key for us,” Konchalski noted.
Off the bench, guard Jaydan Smith pitched in 16 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
“He is making his mark,” Konchalski said of the freshman, noting his career-high 17 points in a Jan. 13 road win over the Cape Breton Capers.
“He continues to improve and come into his own as the season progresses.”
Back in action
The X-Men returned to their home court against the UNB Varsity Reds (Feb. 2) and Saint Mary’s Huskies (Feb. 6).
Results were unavailable at press time.
“We are starting an important four-game home stand, so we hope our fans will come out to support us and help build up some momentum,” Konchalski said in a Jan. 29 interview.
This weekend, the X-Men will welcome the Memorial SeaHawks to Coach K Court for Saturday (Feb. 17) and Sunday (Feb. 18) match-ups.
Tip-off is set for 8 and 3 p.m., respectively.