The shift from the smaller University gyms to the Halifax Metro Centre did not disappoint with over three thousand AUS basketball fans turning out to catch the Quarter Final games between UNB/St FX and Cape Breton/UPEI.
The Varsity Reds came out of the gate looking very good as CIS scoring leader Javon Masters looked to be the facilitator and get his team into the flow. This worked well for the Reds as they got out to a 24-17 lead after one quarter, behind strong shooting from Will McFee.
In the second quarter it looked like UNB was going to run away with the game as St FX looked disorganised , but the X-Men used it’s athleticism to pound the paint and get strong playoff buckets to chip away at the lead. The wheels fell off for UNB when X went to their 3 quarter court token pressure into a zone D that left UNB with late shot clock hoist after late shot clock hoist. With over a minute to play in the frame, X took the 31-29 lead on a Will Donkoh and 1. The half closed at a 34-34 score on Dan Quirion and Shane Coupland 3 balls.
UNB got back to being offensively aggressive in the third quarter behind exceptional play from Javon Masters and Will McFee. Not only was McFee dialed in from the three, but he had a sweet one-handed throw down after rejecting the high-ball screen to give UNB the 65-55 lead with 1:53 remaining in the 3rd. X-Men guard Julius Antoine kept working the paint and kept the X-Men close as the quarter closed with UNB up 68-60.
The Varsity Reds continued to role at the beginning of the fourth and looked like they might cruise to the victory as Dylan Baker and Ryan Smith cashed threes and UNB extended its lead to 14. X-Men guards Will Donkoh and Julius Antoine kept attacking the paint off the bounce and with O-boards and St FX was able to pick away at the lead. UNB dropped into another offensive lapse with passive play. This allowed the X-men to go to work offensively.
With under a minute reamining the Varsity Reds had a chance to put the game away, however they ran the same offensive set for a corner three from Jordan Irvine where they came up empty both times. Kevin Bercey then joined the X paint attack and dropped FTs and made a key left handed hook to give St FX their first lead of the second half 85-84. Jordan Clarke extended the lead to 87 – 84 with 2 FTs after a UNB turnover and the wanted UNB foul. Dan Quirion cashed the straight away 3 with 20 seconds remaining to tie it at 87. Then Will Donkoh put X up 2 with the lay-up. With 0.4 seconds remaining Ryan Smith missed the back end of FTs and St FX won 89-88.
In an interview with NPH Kevin Bercey states, “Last time we played them they beat us by 20, they have three great guards and we just kept fighting and kept believing”. When asked about his go ahead left handed hook Bercey says “I’ve been struggling with that shot but I just kept working it and believing it would go and that one dropped”
Julius Antoine banged in 22pts and Will Donkoh contributed 21 for the X-Men with Javon Masters leading the Varsity Reds with 25pts and 6 asts and Will McFee chipping in with 18 pts.
St FX moves on to play #1 Acadia this Saturday at 6:00pm.
#3 University of Prince Edward Island Panthers vs #6 Cape Breton Capers
The Capers needed to get the up tempo Panthers into a half-court game and were very successful in doing so for the first quarter as the Panthers got out to a 17-13 lead. Early in the second quarter Geoff Doane cashed his second 3 to give UPEI the 22-13 lead and it looked like the Panthers were going to run away with it as the Capers were really struggling offensively.
This was slow pace game with both teams struggling to put the ball in the basket but the Panthers slowly pushed their half time lead to 18 at 43-25 behind solid play from Geoff Doane, Ellis Ffrench and Donathan Moss.
The game hung around the 20 point difference until 7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when Cape Breton made a run behind strong play from Cedric Kasongo and cut the lead to 61-48 with 5:20 remaining. The game hung around this margin and the Panthers cruised to a 74-60 win behind Geoff Doanes 18pts 9rebs.
Cape Breton needed a big game from Meshack Lufile for any chance of an upset of the higher seeded and much deeper Panthers but Lufile was hampered by an ankle injury. Cedric Kasongo led Cape Breton with 21pts.
Both teams worked hard but it just looked like UPEI was on cruise control, Donathan Moss of UPEI spoke of this “We got up to a 20 point lead and we rotated guys through, getting guys rest, looking ahead to a tough semi-final against Saint Mary’s”.
UPEI moves on to play the #2 seed Saint Mary’s Huskies in the Conference Semi Final at 8:15pm.