HALIFAX (ISN) – Terry Thomas of East Preston, N.S., exploded for 39 points to lead the sixth-seeded St. Francis Xavier University X-Men to a 98-82 upset victory over the No. 3 Concordia Stingers, Friday night, in the last quarter-final match of the 50th CIS men’s basketball championship, presented by Subway.
Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mbkb/index
Returning to the tournament after a two-year absence, the X-Men advance to the national Final Four for the first time since 2006, when they dropped a 67-63 decision to Victoria. The three-time W.P. McGee Trophy champions (1993, 2000, 2001) haven’t played in the CIS title match since a 63-59 loss to Carleton in 2004.
In Saturday’s semifinals, reigning national champion and top-seeded Carleton will face No. 5 Fraser Valley at 6 p.m. Atlantic, while StFX will battle No. 2 Alberta at 8:15 p.m. Both games are live on EastLink TV and ssncanada.ca.
“Alberta is tough. (Jordan) Baker and (Daniel) Ferguson are great players. They’re a big, physical team. It’s going to be quite a challenge,” said StFX head coach Steve Konchalski.
For their part, the RSEQ champion Stingers have now lost in the opening round in their last four CIS tourney appearances dating back to 2007. They will take on No. 7 Ryerson on the consolation side of the draw Saturday at 2:15 p.m.
The AUS finalist X-Men dominated the final contest of opening day from start to finish. They started the game with a stunning 23-2 run and never looked back. The score was 32-15 after one quarter, 51-33 at halftime and 77-56 after 30 minutes.
Thomas, a sophomore guard from East Preston, N.S., who was named a second-team all-Canadian this season, had 19 points at the half and finished eight rebounds, six steals and four assists. He was 15-of-23 from the floor, including 2-of-5 from three-point range, and made seven of eight free throws.
Four of his teammates also scored in double figures, including Jeremy Dunn of Wolfville, N.S., with 17 points, freshman Marquis Clayton of Halifax, with 11, as well as Bol Kong of Vancouver and Tyrell Vernon of Hamilton, who had 10 apiece. Kong grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to complete a double-double.
The 98 points scored were the second most in X-Men history at the CIS tournament, trailing only a 100-74 quarter-final win against Calgary in 1979.
“When we play X tempo, we control games,” said Thomas, who was voted player of the game for the winning side. “Tonight, every player did a great job. We played well on defence, we were quick in transition, we played aggressively. We didn’t like losing to Acadia in the final and we wanted to come out strong tonight.”
Konchalski, in his 37th campaign on the StFX sidelines, admitted that getting off to a fast start was part of the game plan, and had nothing but good things to say about the star of the night.
“We didn’t do a good job of that in the AUS final. I think the guys got the message,” said the legendary coach, whose team beat Concordia 94-78 on New Year’s Eve in the final of the Rod Shoveller Memorial Tournament at Dalhousie University.
“What can I say about Terry. He was all over the place tonight. He was dominant. When he’s on like he was today, he’s hard to stop.”
Concordia also had five scorers in double digits, including Zach Brisebois of Montreal, who led the way with 12 points, as well as rookie Jerome Blake of Montreal and Kafil Eyitayo of Benin, who had 11 apiece, and Montreal natives Kyle Desmarais and Evens Laroche, with 10 each.
“They beat us in every facet of game,” said Concordia head coach John Dore. “They were more intense, they out-hustled us, out worked us. They did everything a little quicker, a little more efficiently.”
StFX had significant advantages in points in the paint (62 to 48), points off turnovers (33 to 15) and fast break points (24 to 6). Both teams finished with 47 rebounds. The X-Men shot 47 per cent from the field compared to 43 percent for their Quebec rivals.
Thomas scored 10 of his 39 points as part of StFX’s 23-2 run at the start of the contest and added nine in the second quarter. Concordia was never able to cut the deficit to less than 13 points before the halftime break.
It was much of the same in the third frame as Thomas added nine points to up his game total to 28, and once again the X-Men’s lead never dropped to under 13.
The Stingers opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run to make it a 79-66 affair but X responded with an 8-0 run of its own to put the game away for good. Thomas wrapped up his remarkable outing with 11 points in the frame.
Points: Terry Thomas (39), Jeremy Dunn (17), Marquis Clayton (11)
Rebounds: Bol Kong (12), Terry Thomas (8)
Assists: Tyrell Vernon (6), Terry Thomas (4), Jeremy Dunn (4)
Subway player of the game: Terry Thomas
Points: Zach Brisebois (12), Jerome Blake (11), Kafil Eyitayo (11)
Rebounds: Kyle Desmarais (6), Zach Brisebois (6), Kafil Eyitayo (6)
Assists: Jerome Blake (5), Morgan Tajfel (4)
Subway player of the game: Zach Brisebois