By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers put on a defensive clinic against the Saint Mary's Huskies, holding them to just 38 points to take the first game of the season 63-38.
Carolina Del Santo showed once again why she's an elite defender as she recorded 22 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. And if that wasn't enough, she also had a game-high seven assists.
"We're playing the best defence we've ever played," she said. "There's a trust and communication with this team. When someone goes to help, we know someone else is going to have their back."
The Huskies (0-1) couldn't get anything going in the first half as evident by the 10 points they scored. A lot of that was a result of the effort the Panthers (1-0) put in on that end of the floor. They were down in their stance, fighting through screens and contesting everything their opponent threw up.
"We want to be the best defensive team in Canada," Del Santo said. "We have to keep communicating and we have to be there for our teammates every possession."
"They're playing like veterans," said Panthers head coach Matt Gamblin. "Over the last little bit, they've been making great reads and helping our team score."
After dominating the conference in defence a season ago, the Panthers continued to show their lockdown ability in the opening quarter of the season, where they held the visitors to just four points.
The offence also looked sharp as Ellsworth, Baxendale and Karla Yepez combined for all but one point in the 20-point first.
UPEI's shooting percentage dipped a bit in the second, but even when their shots weren't falling, they got down and defended. The Huskies were limited to just 10 points by halftime, as the home side took command 34-10.
Ellsworth and Baxendale combined for 25 points through 20 minutes of action. And on the defensive end Yepez had three steals, while Del Santo gathered 12 boards with two blocks.
Led again by Ellsworth and Baxendale, the Panthers started the third on an 11-5 run to open up a 30-point advantage, but scored just two points in the final 4:44 of the quarter.
Leading 47-25 at the start of the fourth, Gamblin was comfortable enough to rest Ellsworth for the remainder of the game, knowing there's another one less than 24 hours away. Veteran guard, Annabelle Charron, came in in her place had a strong fourth quarter and led all reserves with seven points.
The Panthers look to bring the same energy on Nov. 2 when they take on the Huskies again for the second game of a back-to-back. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan