By Thomas Becker
Make no mistake. The UPEI Panthers are deeper than you think.
In Friday's 74-50 win over the St. FX X-Women, the Panthers showed off their depth as the bench poured in 38 points.
Leading the charge was Annabelle Charron, who had a game-high 12 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting.
"It's always fun when you get a chance to play and can make an impact on the game," Charron said. "We've been working hard and we've been watching how the starters play and it's helped us improve our game."
Come playoff time, it's that kind of attitude and production that could turn the tides in their favour.
"You never know what can happen in a game, so you always have to be ready to step on the court."
It didn't take long before the Panthers (10-1) took control of the game. After the opponents traded baskets in the opening five minutes, UPEI closed out the quarter on a 14-5 run to take command 23-14. Reese Baxendale was in the middle of all the action, scoring seven of her nine points in the frame.
Triples by Karla Yepez and Charron extended the lead 36-20 midway through the second, as the Panthers continued their furious attack on their way to a 48-22 halftime advantage. Defensively, the home team was equally as strong, holding the X-Women (0-11) scoreless in the final 3:09 of the half, where they shot just 26.3 per cent from the field.
The bench had 21 points at the break and continued to gain confidence as the game wore on. There was a rare sight late in the third – with the Panthers up 23 – when all five reserves saw the court together, giving the starters some much-needed rest.
The combination of Kimeshia Henry, Tamara Timm, Julie Campbell, Lauren Fleming and Charron did not skip a beat and played the entire fourth quarter, further earning the trust of their head coach. With stifling defence and the ability to run coach Matt Gamblin's offence, UPEI took the quarter 13-10, on their way to the 74-50 win.
"Our bench is good and people are starting to realize that," Gamblin said. "Every single minute of meaningful basketball they play right now is going to help us down the road."
Jenna Mae Ellsworth also finished with a game-high 12 points in the win, while Henry reached double figures with 10.
On the other side, X-Woman Katie MacIntosh recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while teammate Leah Fahey finished with 10 as well.
The Panthers are back in action Jan. 20 when they welcome the Dalhousie Tigers. Tipoff is 1 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan