Sunday, 2 January 2011

Big Second Half Propels X-Men to Shoveller Championship

More than a few eyebrows were raised when 5'10" Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw missed Saturday night's important Shoveller semi-final affair for "undisclosed reasons" in which St. FX showed that they could play and win without their fifth-year All-Canadian.  But when he was needed most in this afternoon's championship game against host Dal Tigers, Upshaw delivered a sterling second-half performance to lift X to their first Shoveller win since 2002, an 85-69 victory that was played with Nationals-like intensity before an excited, packed house at DalPlex.  The game featured plenty of verbal jousting between the players and a strong sense that X/Dal is turning into a great rivalry.

Upshaw struggled in his first few minutes of play after entering the game as a substitute late in the first quarter.  In fact, Upshaw was whistled for a pushoff and turned it over on another occasion, allowing Tigers to recover from an early 17-8 deficit to take a 27-26 lead.  But then the diminutive combo guard knocked down a three directly in Juelous Grant's face and then brought the crowd to it's collective feet with a slick ally-oop feed to 6'5" freshman Terry Thomas who hammered home a hard dunk with plenty of lift, giving X the lead back.  Tigers did finish the half well but struggled from the line, missing at least 7 free throws to enable them to enter halftime up by only 1.

But the second half belonged to Upshaw and fellow fifth-year guard Charlie Spurr, who himself had a big second half, keying X's big mid-third quarter run which created a double digit lead from which Dal never recovered.  Upshaw made several perimeter jumpers, got himself into the lane and dished out for easy 3's or inside for layups which 7'2" Rinny Ngot and 6'3" Dwayne Johnson being the primary recipients.  Dal got the game back to 9 at 73-64 with about 4 minutes remaining however could get no closer and X extended to 16 during garbage time in the final 2 minutes during which Thomas had another jam. 

X's two best players on the weekend set the pace in the first quarter as 5'9" Will Silver had 10 quick points to give X an early 17-8 lead and 6'5" Jeremy Dunn had 5 points including a pair of free throws to give X-Men a 9 point lead.  But 6'1" Simon Farine got more assertive off the dribble, driving for a lay-up and later creating and kicking to 6'2" Peter Leighton, who hit a three that got the game back to 4 early.  But Dal's struggles at the line helped negate whatever momentum their tough half court "d" and Farine's creativity had started.  And then Upshaw and Co. took over when it counted in the second half.

X now focuses on the AUS regular season when they host UPEI on Saturday and then travels to Wolfville to face Acadia on Sunday afternoon.  The Tigers prepare for a pair of games in Sydney against the undefeated Cape Breton Capers next weekend.

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