By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers fell victim to Cape Breton's powerful post game down the stretch, as the Capers came away with a 75-71 win Saturday night.
The Capers (2-5) had their way in the post and scored 20 points in the paint in the final quarter. Sophomore forward Sarah Hiscock scored 14 of her team-high 19 points in the decisive frame, all of which came under the basket.
"We identified something and tried to go at it in there and it worked," said Capers head coach Fabian McKenzie. "She did a great job, but it was a team effort to get it inside."
It was a big win in a crucial four-point game for a team trying to turn their season around and get back in the playoff hunt. The victory also snapped UPEI's 16-game home win streak, dating back to the 2017-18 season.
"For us, we had a tough schedule. We've been injured, banged up, and we're rebuilding, so this one was huge for us."
After Cape Breton scored the opening three, the Panthers (5-2) countered with the next eight points, capped off by five straight points from Lauren Fleming. The Capers used a 15-4 run to storm ahead 18-12, forcing the home team to regroup with a timeout.
Following an Annabelle Charron triple, the visitors closed the quarter with an Ava Prosser three-pointer and a Hiscock layup to take the quarter 23-15. The Capers were also lights out from beyond the arc where they shot a perfect 4-of-4.
UPEI guard, Reese Baxendale put the team on her back in first three minutes of the second quarter, scoring 11 consecutive points. She single-handedly tied the game at 26-26 with a varied attack, including drives to the rim and her smooth jumper.
She had 13 of her game-high 28 points at the break, but Cape Breton finished the quarter on a 11-2 run and pulled ahead 43-35. MacKenzie Ryan and Monique Calliste combined for 11 of the 20 second-quarter points. Ryan had 11 of her 19 points at halftime.
The Panthers came out strong in the third, as Fleming drilled a pair of long-range jumpers, followed by a Charron pull-up to make it a one-point game. The opponents traded baskets before a Charron corner trey and a Lauren Rainford layup gave UPEI the 51-47 advantage. Their defence was also strong in the quarter and held the Capers to just eight points on 17.6 per cent shooting, as they went into the final quarter up 54-51.
Down two early in the fourth, Baxendale delivered again scoring six straight to it make 63-59. And that's when Hiscock began her takeover. The Capers consistently looked for the big forward in post where she feasted. She scored eight straight points — all on layups — to give her team the definitive lead. In the fourth alone, she shot 7-for-8 and hauled in two offensive rebounds.
Calliste finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds in the win, while Rainford and Charron reached double figures with 17 and 12 points, respectively for the Panthers.
"We rebounded down the stretch and we took care of the ball and that made the difference for us," MacKenzie said. "It was a good win for us and we learned a lot of things because we've been struggling as a young team."
The Panthers return to the court in 2020 when they take on Acadia Axewomen on Jan. 4 at 6 p.m.
Photo Credit: Jason Malloy