The StFX X-Men held on for a 94-93 win over UPEI Friday evening in their AUS season opener. The Panthers had a chance, but four missed free throws down the stretch as the X-Men held on for the victory.
Following Justin Andrew's go-ahead triple that gave the X-Men the decisive lead, UPEI failed on two occasions to take the game on free throws, as they struggled in the final quarter shooting just 2-of-7 from the charity strike.
"It's a tough loss," said Panthers head coach Tim Kendrick. "But I'll tell you one thing, I'd put those guys back on the foul line tomorrow and expect nothing but great things."
Shots were falling early and often for the Panthers, as point guard Amin Suleman led the charge with a three-point barrage. The point guard drained his first three triples of the evening, giving UPEI an early 12-9 advantage.
StFX matched them point-for-point before the Panthers finished the quarter on an 8-0 run, extending their lead 28-20. Suleman almost singlehandedly outscored the X-Men with 18 first-quarter points on 6-of-8 shooting (5-of-7 from three).
StFX pushed back with a 7-2 run to open the second, cutting the deficit 30-27 and forcing the Panthers to call a timeout. Led by Kevin Bercy's 11-point quarter, the X-Men continued their strong play, trimming it to as few as one. But they couldn't pull ahead of the Panthers, who extended their lead 51-46 at halftime.
Bercy continued his strong play in the second half, propelling the X-Men to their first lead since the opening quarter, 56-54. But a thunderous dunk by Milorad Sedlarevic reignited the Panthers' offence, as they clawed back to tie the game at 63 apiece.
The Panthers would move ahead 67-66 on a deep jumper by Samy Mohamed, who contributed with seven points off the bench. Mohamed continued his timely shooting, drilling the distance three, followed by two free throws to give UPEI a five-point cushion, 74-69. However, back-to-back triples gave the X-Men a 77-76 edge heading into the final quarter.
Down a single point, Tyler Scott was determined to lead the Panthers to victory. Scott scored 10 of his 21 points in the final frame, including five in the opening minutes to give his team an 83-79 lead.
With only 2:55 remaining, Scott added a free throw to give UPEI a 93-89 lead, but that would be the last point the Panthers scored, as the X-Men buckled down on defence to steal the 94-93 win.
The Panthers had a chance to take the lead in the dying seconds, but missed free throws by both Scott and Sedlarevic sealed UPEI's fate.
"They have a great player in Tyler Scott," said X-Men head coach Steve Konchalski. "We got a little lucky because a very good shooter went to the foul line and just didn't make shots."
Bercy led all scorers with 30 points, while Suleman countered with 24 to lead the Panthers.
"Bercy's one of the best players in this league," Konchalski said of his fourth-year forward. "He's worked really hard on his game and he's the guy we hang our hat on."
The Panthers (0-1) look to avoid the sweep when they take on the X-Men (1-0) on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at the Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre.