By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers may have come away with a 72-68 win over the St. FX X-Women, but the game left more questions than answers.
With the AUS Championships fast approaching, how did the Panthers – a team with championship aspirations – allow the 1-18 X-Women to almost upset them?
"We just didn't defend at all in the first half," said a blunt Greg Gould.
The concern is that this isn't isolated to just Friday's game. The defensive woes started to show at UNB last Saturday when they fell to the Varsity Reds 77-66 after beating them handedly the night before.
"The problem with defence is that it only takes one person for it to break down," the bench boss said. "If we don't go through our normal rotations and help each other out the way we're supposed to help then you get exposed."
Jamie McCarron got it going early for St. FX, drilling a pair of midrange jumpers to give them an early lead, but Panther (10-9) guards Jenna Mae Ellsworth and Reese Baxendale countered with back-to-back threes to pull ahead 8-6.
The X-Women did a good job containing Kiera Rigby off the dribble as she went 0-of-4 out of the gate. But the MVP candidate bounced back late in the quarter with a pair of triples to give the Panthers a 22-20 advantage.
St. FX opened the second on a 9-2 run to storm ahead 29-24. After UPEI regained the lead, the visiting team came right back and restored a four-point edge at halftime, 42-38.
The X-Women used a balanced attack with nine players recording at least two points. McCarron and Kimberly Kingsbury led the way with nine apiece, while Rigby led all scorers with 12 at the half.
UPEI came out of the break strong and used an 8-2 run to retake the lead, but St. FX countered with a 16-7 run, seizing command 60-53. With just five-tenth of second remaining, Rigby threw up a long-distance prayer and it was answered as she trimmed the deficit to 60-56 with a quarter remaining.
"Obviously that was a pretty big shot us," Gould said. "But you can't count on making three-point shots with 0.5 left on the clock to win ball games."
Disappointed with the way his team defended through three quarters (allowing St. FX to shoot 43.9 per cent from the field), Gould elected to deploy his zone defence to disrupt their opponent's rhythm and it worked. St. FX shot just 20 per cent from the field and put up just eight points in the frame. Rigby alone scored eight of her 22 points in the decisive quarter as the Panthers escaped with a 72-68 win.
Subway Player of the Game, Carolina Del Santo, recorded a double-double in the win with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while teammates Ellsworth and Jane McLaughlin finished in double figures with 14 and 11, respectively.
The Panthers return to the court for their final home game on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. when they host the Dalhousie Tigers.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan