By Thomas Becker
After a disappointing effort the night before, the Panthers offence sparked and caught fire in the third quarter en route to a 73-57 win over the UNB Varsity Reds Saturday night.
Kiera Rigby, Jenna Mae Ellsworth and rookie Reese Baxendale combined to score 52 points to lead their team. But it was UPEI's production in the decisive quarter, where they outscored their opponent 26-13, that put them ahead for good.
"What we got was a great team effort," said head coach Greg Gould, who's team shared the rock for 18 assists on 22 made field goals. "We kept pushing the basketball and got it to the hot hand."
It took a couple minutes for the Panthers (2-2) to compete at a level Gould was happy with, as he burned a quick timeout after he noticed his team was being outhustled on the backboards. Following the timeout, UNB reeled off six more points to take an early 8-0 lead.
After the slow start, UPEI – led by their defence – responded with a 7-0 run of their own to claw back into the game. Ellsworth led the way with four of her 16 points, as they took the quarter 14-12, despite shooting just 33.3 per cent. Grace Wade on the other end countered with eight.
The Varsity Reds (3-1) found their rhythm in the second, where they shot 53.8 per cent from the field. Nicole Esson and Hannah Currie combined to score 13 of the 17 points in the frame to propel their team to a slim 29-27 halftime lead. The Panthers, meanwhile, continued to struggle from the field where they shot just 35.7 per cent.
UPEI came out of the break determined to take the second game of a back-to-back and used a quick 8-0 run to jump ahead 35-29. The Panthers were aggressive on offence and ran the ball every opportunity they had as they pushed the lead to 12, forcing UNB's bench boss to call a timeout.
But the Varsity Reds' defence could do little to stop the red hot Panthers, who torched them for 26 points on a blistering 63.6 per cent. After a rough first half, Baxendale could not be stopped, scoring 11 of her 16 points in the frame, while Rigby scored 10 to extend their lead 53-42 after three.
"Everyone was clicking in that quarter," said Rigby, who flirted with a triple-double, scoring 20 points with eight boards and eight assists. "Everyone was into it, everyone was going to the boards, everyone was feeling good and once we hit a shot, it just kept flowing for us."
After trading baskets in the early part of the fourth, UPEI continued to dominate on the offensive end, as they avenged their home opener loss in a big way 73-57.
"We had a meeting this morning and we realized we just needed to be tougher and I thought we were tonight," said Gould.
The Panthers hit the road next where they'll take on the Cape Breton Capers on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m.