Panthers edge Memorial in 62-60 nail-biter

Panthers edge Memorial in 62-60 nail-biter

By Thomas Becker

Baskets were hard to come by, but the gritty UPEI Panthers found a way to take down the Memorial Sea-Hawks for a second straight game, 62-60.

The Panthers played from behind for a lot of the game and each time Memorial added to their lead, UPEI would claw back. 

"It's a good character win when things aren't going your way, but you're still able to dig through. A game like that in November means a lot later in the season," said head coach Matt Gamblin.

The Panthers were shutout in the first three minutes of the game, but three straight layups pulled them ahead 6-4. The two teams traded baskets throughout the low-scoring quarter, as the home team carried a 13-10 lead into the second.

Post players Carolina Del Santo and Jane McLaughlin combined for nine, while Sydney Ezekiel had six for Memorial in the early going. She'd record a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Baskets came at a premium for UPEI and the Sea-Hawks took full advantage. Haillie Nickerson led a 14-5 charge with 10 points to give her team a 24-18 advantage. She finished with a team-high 14 points. 

But in the final 1:30 of the half, Reese Baxendale pulled her team within one with seven straight points. She had nine of her game-high 22 points at the half, where Memorial led 26-25. 

The back and forth affair continued well within the third and each time Memorial cushioned their lead in the slightest, the Panthers bounced back. First it was McLaughlin who scored five straight to tie it at 38, then it was Julie Campbell who cut it to one. Still, the Sea-Hawks led 46-43 after three. 

"In a game like that, you have to stay close. You can't give up a cushion of 10," Gamblin said. "It was key plays like that that kept us in it and allowed us to build momentum."

Down seven early in the fourth, Baxendale and Campbell drilled back-to-back threes to pull within three, 52-49. The veteran savvy McLaughlin stepped up in a big way and pushed her team forward with a three ball, followed by two free throws to make it a 58-57 game.

"I'm just letting the game come to me," said McLaughlin, who's shooting a blistering 64.7 per cent from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 from three after two games. "I'm just a lot more relaxed than I've ever played and it's coming a lot easier."

With three minutes to go, Baxendale deposited her third triple of the game to tie it up at 60. 1:20 later, Karla Yepez gathered an offensive rebound on her own shot and with the lay-in gave her team the definitive 62-60 lead.

"We just have this drive to win on our home court, even when things aren't going our way," McLaughlin said. "It's a tough league and it's all going to add up in the end."

The Panthers will visit the defending champion Acadia Axewomen for a pair of games this weekend.  

Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan