Second-year forward Kyle Arseneault has emerged as a force for the basketball Axemen this season, stepping up his play at both ends of the court to make up for the absence of players like Owen Klassen and Rhys Larry. (John DeCoste)
The Acadia basketball Axemen entered the Christmas break with a 5-2 record, tied for third in the AUBC with 12 points.
UNB (6-1) and Saint Mary’s (6-2) led the conference with 14 points each, while St. F.X. (5-3) was tied with Acadia with 12 points. AUBC regular season games can be worth either two or four points.
“We’re pleased to head into the break at 5-2, and believe we have a lot of room for growth after the break,” Axemen head coach Steve Baur said.
The Axemen have beaten UPEI twice and Dalhousie, UNB and St. F.X. once each, while losing to the Tigers in Halifax and the Varsity Reds in Wolfville.
To Baur, the break “comes at a good time for us.” A number of players, including fifth-year seniors Owen Klassen, Anthony Sears and Anthony Ashe, “have been battling injuries all semester.”
Rhys Larry has not played yet this season due to an ankle injury sustained in the pre-season. Multi-athlete Sean Stoqua was injured playing with the football Axemen and has also not played basketball at all this season.
“It will be nice to get some rest and heal everybody’s bodies,” Baur said.
Owen Klassen was Acadia’s leading scorer when healthy, averaging almost 24 points and 10.5 rebounds in the four games he was able to play.
Klassen had season highs of 34 points Nov. 22 against UNB and 15 rebounds Nov. 28 against St. F.X., and recorded three-straight ‘double-doubles’, points and rebounds.
Ashe has averaged 15 points a game, Shaquille Smith 11.9, Kyle Arseneault 10.7, Sears 10.5, A.J. Simmonds 8.4 and Lauchlan Gale 7.3.
Smith has stepped up to ease the absences of Ashe and Sears, while Arseneault and Gale have stepped up in Klassen and Larry’s absence.
“Our seniors (Klassen, Ashe, Sears and Gale) have provided some great leadership for our team, both on and off the floor. They have been a calming influence in games, and have led the way in preparation and intensity every day,” Baur said.
Defensively, he pointed out, “we can make some strides in the second semester.” Specifically, “we have to be better on the ball.”
Simple things on defence, such as “getting back in transition and guarding the ball, will vastly improve the quality of defensive possessions we have.”
In terms of surprises, Baur cited Arseneault, who “has had an emergence for us in the first semester.” His determination, especially in terms of rebounding, “has helped us on both ends of the floor,” and earned him a spot in the starting lineup.
Following first-semester exams and Christmas, the Axemen are back in action at the Rod Shoveller Tournament Jan. 2-4 at Dalhousie, then resume the regular season by hosting Memorial Jan. 11-12 at War Memorial Gymnasium.