SUMMERSIDE – The host Three Oaks Axemen received a balanced offensive attack in the opening game of the 24th edition of the Christmas Classic basketball tournament.
Every single member of the Axemen scored at least one point in a 96-52 victory over the Bluefield Bobcats at the Three Oaks Senior High School gymnasium early Thursday evening.
“We are a balanced team,” said Axemen head coach Faro Halupa. “We have a lot of guys who can come in and score.
“I don’t think our issue most of the time is going to be scoring. It’s going to be defensive lock-in mentality, and we seem to need one to do the other.
“Everyone on this team can contribute when they get asked to go in the game.”
In Thursday’s other tournament contest, the Colonel Gray Colonels edged the Charlottetown Rural Raiders 69-66 in an all-Charlottetown clash.
The Axemen, who led 25-20 after one quarter, outscored the Bobcats 30-12 in the second quarter to build a 55-32 lead at halftime.
“It was a slow start,” assessed Halupa. “We are young, and I think that’s part of the issue with our slow starts.
“We settled down and started to play the game we wanted to, get the ball up and down the court fast and pressure the other team as much as possible.”
Offensively, Ethan Boyd poured in a game-high 25 points to lead the Axemen.
“(Ethan’s) a real smooth player,” said Halupa. “He knows how to get to spots, and he makes a lot of shots.
“He got a lot of them (Thursday), and it’s good to get him in the flow right away.”
Vlersim Musliu and Sahib Singh each contributed 11 points for the Axemen. Three players – Cameron Wall, Logan Cameron and Justin Caron – sank eight.
Matthew Mineo (13), Daniel Wills (11) and Matthew Meenink (8) were Bluefield’s top point-getters.
Play in the eight-team tournament, which has attracted senior AAA-calibre boys’ teams from P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, resumes on Friday at 12:30 p.m. The Axemen have two games scheduled against St. Malachy’s from Saint John, N.B., at 2:15 p.m., and Amherst, N.S., at 8:15 p.m.
“Honestly, I don’t know anything about either of them,” said Halupa after he was asked about Friday’s opponents. “We haven’t seen Amherst in a couple of years. We expect some hard-fought games with both of them, some physicality and high intensity.”
Going forward, Halupa will be looking for strong defensive play and good starts from the Axemen.
“We need to make sure we come in the first minute of the game with energy,” added Halupa. “Our game feeds off energy that we create.”
Colonels 69 Raiders 66
At Charlottetown Rural, Yahya Sefau scored 13 points to lead the Colonels, who received 12 from John Alex Vos and 11 from Joe Thomson.
For Rural, Will Vidito (20), Zack Wall (19) and Josh Bourque (11) were the top scorers.
Gray led 38-34 at halftime.