X-Men upend top-seeded Victoria, will play for national gold

X-Men upend top-seeded Victoria, will play for national gold

Halifax (U SPORTS) - The U SPORTS men's basketball championship host STFX X-Men are heading to the gold medal game, following their 77-64 victory over the Canada West champion Victoria Vikes in the national semi-final. 

Schedule & Results

The STFX X-Men came out quick, building a 5-0 lead in the first few possessions. The fast pace kept up throughout the first 10 minutes, with the X-Men building a 26-14 lead before the end of the quarter.

Victoria went on a 10-4 run in the first four minutes of the second to cut into the X-Men lead. The loud Scotiabank Centre crowd favoured the X-Men, who looked to recover the momentum but it was the Vikes who carried much of the quarter.

X-Men forward David Muenkat spoke to the contagious atmosphere in the hometown crowd, noting that "our fans give us a lot of energy and we are extremely grateful for all the fans who showed up tonight, they definitely played a big part in this win."

STFX's David Grumbach had a big five points in the second quarter, including a buzzer beating three to end the half, and send his team to the locker room with a 43-36 lead. Head coach Tyrell Vernon called the first half a dog fight, adding he expected nothing less.

The X-Men came out with a 10-3 run in the first three minutes of the second half, gaining at 11 point lead by the middle of the third quarter. Antigonish's Dondre Reddick bought a lot of emotion to the game, and kept the crowd alive with a couple of big dunks. The Vikes kept making shots though, and cut the lead to seven points heading into the final quarter.

Victoria came out with some jump in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to three points in the first two minutes. STFX made it interesting, going on a 6-0 run of their own, and they were up by nine about midway through. Victoria, which came into the final eight ranked number 1, didn't fade though, and battled hard for the last three minutes.

Victoria's Dominick Oliveri was the Nike Top performer for his team, bringing in 24 rebounds and chipping in three points. Defensive player of the year and second team All Canadian David Muenkat had 19 rebounds for STFX, along with 10 points to earn Nike Top Performer for the hosts. Reddick, along with Avan Nava each had 17 points for STFX, while Diego Maffia dropped 20 for the Vikes. 

Victoria now heads to the bronze medal game, where they will take on the Ottawa Gee-Gees at 2 p.m. on Sunday. STFX will take on the Carleton Ravens in the 2023 U SPORTS men's championship at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

X-Men head coach Tyrell Vernon spoke on the grind of playing three games in three days, "The intensity of each game gets heighted every single game. You can see on all four teams guys are up and down, they're getting bumped and bruised. We need to get focused, get rested and focused for tomorrow."

Looking ahead to playing the storied Carleton Ravens team, winner of 16 U SPORTS titles since 2003, Muenkat commented that "we obviously have a lot of respect for their Carleton, they're a program that knows how to win. We're focused on ourselves and we're here for a reason too and we're more than ready for the challenge."

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