By Thomas Becker
It was a forgetful fourth quarter for the UPEI Panthers, who dropped their semifinal game to the Brock Badgers 69-55.
The Badgers willed their way to the win after outscoring their opponent 17-7 in the frame. Melissa Tatti went off for eight points in the final 10 minutes and finished with 13. She also added seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
The loss hit hard for the ultra-competitive Jenna Mae Ellsworth, who recorded a double-double with a team-high 19 points with 10 rebounds.
But with lots still to play for, her Panthers will have to erase this one quickly and mentally prepare for their bronze medal game, set for Sunday at noon (ET) against the Laval Rouge et Or.
"I don't like losing," she said. "But you have to move on and play tomorrow."
Head coach Matt Gamblin echoed his star's sentiments.
"We're still playing for medal tomorrow. You got to have a short memory and let it go and get ready for the next one."
Ellsworth started off strong and opened the game with first seven points for the Panthers in a tie game. Samantha Keltos used her size well and went in inside with the soft hook followed by a free throw to give Brock their first lead 10-7.
Lauren Fleming scored the next five points, followed by the hoop and the harm from Ellsworth, as UPEI jumped in front 15-12. The back and forth affair continued throughout a first quarter that ended in 20-all tie.
The Panthers were held scoreless for three minutes before Fleming put in the reverse layup to trim the deficit to just two. But they couldn't contain Keltos, who started to take over both inside and outside. After drilling a three-pointer midway through the second, UPEI was forced to call a timeout down 29-22.
A putback layup by Ellsworth followed by a Reese Baxendale triple made it a 32-29 game near the end of the half. Ellsworth got the assignment on Keltos after the centre put up 16 points in quarter and half. The AUS Defensive Player of the Year slowed her down with her physicality allowing the Panthers to stay in the game. Still, Brock led 36-33 at the break.
Keltos finished with a game-high 23 points and 17 rebounds, while adding five blocks and two steals on the defensive end.
Brock opened the second half on a 9-3 run and pushed their lead to 45-36. UPEI's Carolina Del Santo came in and drilled an elbow jumper, which was followed by an Ellsworth three to trim the deficit back down to 45-41.
The Panthers absorbed each punch only to return one on the other end. Baxendale connected on a corner three at the buzzer, as they went into the fourth down 52-48. The third-year guard reached double figures with 14 points and also added five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
The Badgers continued to play well at the start of quarters and the fourth was no different. They opened the frame on a 12-0 run led by Tatti's eight points. By the five-minute mark, UPEI was suddenly down 64-48 and all Brock had to do was play smart and use the clock to close out the win.
"They executed better than we did. The little things we usually take care of, we didn't," Gamblin said. "At this level, it doesn't take much. All the teams are so good, and you can lose the game quickly."
Photo Credit: Robin Kasem