By Thomas Becker
The afternoon belonged to Alison Keough.
Not only did she help the Cape Breton Capers (8-6) escape the Island with a weekend split, but she also reached a pair of milestones as well. The reigning MVP eclipsed Julie Galipeau (SaintMary's) and her 13-year AUS record to become the new queen of rebounds. The forward also passed Kelsey Hodgson to become the Capers all-time leading scorer.
"It feels amazing really," said Keough, who quickly gave credit to her team. "But the best feeling is that our team is coming together at the right time and getting some wins."
Keough was simply unstoppable in Sunday's 88-78 win, as she recorded a monster double-double with a game-high 34 points and 19 rebounds. As a result, she was also named Subway Player of the Game.
"We knew it was tough coming in, but it was very important to come away with the split because we're all in the middle of the standings and a bye would be great to have," she said. "That's what we're pushing for so it was a big game."
Following a great defensive display the night before, Carolina Del Santo showed off her offensive skill in the paint and with the mid-range jumper for six early points, as the Panthers (7-7) carried a 10-6 edge.
The Capers countered with an 8-4 run to tie things up, but Del Santo's eight first-quarter points gave UPEI a slim 16-14 advantage. She finished with a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double.
Cape Breton's Toni Bianchini found her shooting stroke in the opening minutes of the second where she scored eight quick points to give them the lead. Hannah Brown followed that up with another long-range jumper as they stormed ahead 28-23.
Keough then took over in the post with six straight points, helping her team take command 47-35 at halftime. The Capers were unstoppable in the quarter shooting a blistering 68.8 per cent for 33 points. Keough had 16 in the half, while Bianchini chipped in with 12 of her 16 points.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the third as the Capers took a 67-54 lead into the final 10. The Panthers had no answer for Keough, who was dominant in the low block. By the end of the quarter, she had already recorded her double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Karla Yepez opened the fourth with back-to-back baskets, which seemed to spark the Panthers who managed to cut the deficit to six, 73-67. After Cape Breton extended their lead back to double digits, Reese Baxendale and her smothering defence led to consecutive lay-ins as the Panthers trimmed it to five. Another key stop cut it to three, but that's as close as they'd get as Keough iced the game with clutch free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 88-78 win.
"Our coach is always talking about weathering the storm," Keough said. "In the fourth quarter, they (the Panthers) were able to cut it to five. They were getting some steals and were just pounding back at us, but I thought we stayed composed and ultimately came out with a win."
Brown (18) and MacKenzee Ryan (12) also finished in double figures in the win, while Jenna Mae Ellsworth had a team-high 21 for the Panthers. Cape Breton's Sandra Amoah had the unenviable task of guarding Kiera Rigby, but she did a solid job, holding the league's top scorer to just 18 points.
UPEI returns to action on Feb. 3 when they host the visiting Memorial Sea-Hawks. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan