Antigonish, NS – In a wild game to close out AUS regular season play at the StFX Oland Centre, the StFX X-Men defeated the UPEI Panthers 94-93 in overtime.
It was senior night at StFX and fifth year point guard Akil Charles (Glenn Dale, MD) decided it was going to be his night as he shone in the final minutes down the clutch for the X-Men in his final game ever at the Oland Centre.
The Panthers were by 12 points with 5:40 left in the game – cue the comeback. Charles hit a three-pointer with 3:38 left to play to pull the X-Men to within eight points. He then went on to sink three consecutive three-point shots, the final one coming in dramatic fashion with only 0.1 left on the game clock to tie the game at 85 and send it to overtime.
"Tonight's game was a special win on seniors night," commented X-Men head coach Steve Konchalski. "It was appropriate since Akil Charles, playing in his last game in the Oland Centre, was really the hero of the night hitting that three-pointer to send the game into overtime."
When asked after the game how it felt to drain that basket, Charles humbly commented, "Coach K gave me the confidence and I wanted to win it for my team so I was happy I could contribute to do that."
As if the late heroics in regulation weren't enough, the five-minute overtime period brought more drama. The teams exchanged baskets and found themselves tied again at 90 with 44 seconds left to play.
After Charles missed a pair of free throws, X-Men freshman guard Justin Andrew (Hamilton, ON) entered the game then hit a fader to give the X-Men a two-point advantage. Panthers fifth year guard Tyler Scott (Halifax, NS), an AUS star in his own right, missed a jumper then after a Panthers foul and a pair of Andrew free throws, the X-Men were up by four points, 94-90 with only seven seconds left.
Scott then nailed a three-point from far beyond the arc with under a second on the clock and was fouled on the ensuing follow-through. With one free throw the AUS leading scorer could have sent the game into a second overtime period but his shot bounced off the rim and the X-Men held on for the 95-94 overtime win.
The teams were tied at 22 after the opening quarter and the Panthers held advantages of 44-43 at halftime and 71-64 after three quarters.
Charles, the Subway player of the game, scored 22 points (18 from beyond the arc) for the X-Men who had all five starters hit the double scoring figures.
Julius Antoine (Woodbridge, ON) scored 13 and added seven rebounds and four assists, Cameron Walker (Dallas, TX) had a double-double night with 13 points and 12 boards, while Kevin Bercy (Kanata, ON) and Davonte Provo (East Preston, NS) each netted 10. Bercy also hauled in nine rebounds.
Dut Dut (Ottawa, ON) had a big night for the Panthers, scoring 34 points and adding 12 rebounds and two blocks.
Scott, who wraps up his five-year career (three years with UPEI and two with Acadia) with a career 1706 points, putting him fourth overall on the AUS all-time career scoring list. He scored 15 tonight and had five rebounds and four assists.
Samy Mohamed (Scarborough, ON) and Milorad Sedlarevic (Jesenice, Slovenia) contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively off the UPEI bench. Fifth year veteran guard Lorenzo Parker (New Minas, NS), playing in his final AUS game, scored 11 and had five rebounds for the Panthers.
With a 6-14 record and 16 points the Panthers find themselves out of AUS playoff contention.
The X-Men (9-11, 28 points) finish in sixth position and will play the third place Saint Mary's Huskies (13-7, 34 points) in the Subway AUS quarterfinals on Friday evening, March 3rd at the Halifax Scotiabank Centre. Game time is 8:30 pm.
Fifth seeded Acadia and fourth seeded Memorial will fight it out in the earlier 6:30 pm quarter-final, while Dalhousie and UNB await the winners for Saturday's semifinals.
After a two-year hiatus from the championship, the X-Men are looking forward to their return. When asked about his upcoming Saint Mary's quarter-final opponent, Coach K commented, "They're going to be tough."
"We've beaten them two-out-of-two in league play this year, but at the same time they are as talented a team as anyone in the league. It's anybody's game and I'm just happy to be in the playoffs. Coming in after a character win like this where we had to come from behind and to come back and win it in overtime gives us a real push heading into playoffs."