Antigonish, NS - The StFX X-Men emerged victorious 75-72 over the Acadia Axemen in a thrilling mid-week matchup at the StFX Oland Centre. Jayden Smith (Halifax, NS) made a buzzer beating three-point shot from the corner to give StFX a three-point win and earn a precious four points in the AUS standings in their battle to secure a playoff spot.
In the opening quarter, Nick De Palma (Bedford, NS) led the way from beyond the arc for Acadia and had nine points as both teams struggled to find their shooting form. Leading the way for the post players was Atik Gilao (Brampton, ON) who scored eight points. StFX was up 19-12 after the first quarter.
The opening half was a nervous affair with neither team looking comfortable working through their offensive sets. Ben Miller (Winnipeg, MB) led the line well for the Axemen and was the most composed player on the floor. For the X-Men, Nick McKee (Newmarket, ON) came off the bench early to settle the X-Men and scored a quick five points to keep StFX in touching distance.
Justin Andrew (Hamilton, ON) went down early, but re-entered the fray in the second half and injected both energy and points. On one possession, Andrew hit a last second three in the act of being fouled, and completed the four-point play with ease. The half-time score 36-32 in favour of the X-Men.
The second half continued much as the first as nervous shooting saw neither team able to extend a lead. Both teams struggled to hit from beyond the arc. While Miller and Jacques Lukusa (Ottawa, ON) marshalled their Acadia squad, it was the fearless Atik Gilao with nine third quarter points to keep their Antigonish faithful believing that victory was possible. The X-Men held a slim 51-50 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
The fourth saw both teams increase the desperation metre to ten. Forest Mahoney (Beachburg, ON) collected a number of big rebounds for the Axemen, and the bench play of StFX's McKee kept each team thinking it could eke out four points.
With six seconds remaining in the game and down by three points, Acadia's floor marshal Miller inbounded the ball and then quickly got the ball back. He shot a long range three to tie the game at 72-72. StFX called timeout and it was anyone's guess which of X's sharp-shooters would take the final shot.
As the seconds ticked down, Justin Andrew had control of the ball, he made his was down the floor, but the suffocating Acadia defence did not allow him a path into the paint. Alertly, he spotted X's best fourth quarter player, Jayden Smith in the corner with a fraction of a second left. Smith, unsuccessful from distance the whole evening, launched his shot and there would only be one destination, the bottom of the net.
The shot swished just as the final buzzer sounded to give the X-Men the 75-72 victory. For his heroics Smith earned Subway player of the game honours. He finished with nine points and eight rebounds on the night.
Leading the scoring for StFX was Gilao with 17 points. Daniel Passley had a double-double night with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while McKee also had a double, sinking 14 points and pulling in 14 rebounds in a strong game off the bench for X. Andrew added 11 points in the win.
Leading the Axemen was De Palma with 14 points. Player of the game Marcus Upshaw (Burlington, ON) scored 11 points, while Miller was the top rebounder with 10.
Next up on the AUS schedule sees Acadia host the Cape Breton Capers on Saturday evening, February 9th, in Wolfville. The X-Women will also be at home on Saturday night as they host Saint Mary's. Tip-off for both games is 6:00 pm.