By Thomas Becker
If depth on UPEI's roster is a concern, it shouldn't be anymore.
In a full team effort, the Panthers (5-1) earned a weekend sweep over the Dalhousie Tigers with a 65-48 win Saturday night.
Three players finished in double figures for the victors with Karla Yepez leading the way with 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Fellow starters Reese Baxendale and Annabelle Charron were the other two high-point women, who finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Meanwhile, the rookie quartet of Lauren Rainford, Reilly Sullivan, Lexi MacInnis and Ashleigh Marshall combined for 24 points. Sullivan also had a team-high nine rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end.
Panthers head coach Matt Gamblin said he was pleased to see his new recruits step up this weekend and players like Charron and Lauren Fleming fill in admirably for the injured all-stars.
"It's good experience for the ones who don't have it," he said. "We practice hard so when you go out on the court it shouldn't be a shock. We don't want people scared of the moment."
After the game, Yepez said she isn't surprised by the team's ability to adapt to adversity and still find success.
"We're absolutely hurting not having Jenna Mae (Ellsworth) and Carolina (Del Santo), but I want to give all the credit to our rookies and the rest of the women for stepping up and embracing this challenge."
It took half a quarter before the Panthers hit their stride. Tied eight-all, UPEI went on a furious 14-3 run, spurred by their ability to get to the rim. They scored 14 points in the paint, led by Baxendale's nine, as they went into the second up 22-11.
Chelsea Slawter-Wright tried her best getting the Tigers (1-4) back in the game with five of the team's 12 second-quarter points. They got within nine a couple times, but the home team closed the quarter on a 7-3 run, capped off by a MacInnis three-pointer, to take a 36-23 advantage into the break.
Rainford opened the third with a lay-in and a jumper to extend the lead 40-23, forcing the visitors to regroup with a timeout. The Tigers were held without a point for more than six minutes until Morgan Gause went in for a layup and a free throw to make it 47-26.
"Regardless of how things are going on offence, we try to lock in on defence all the time," Yepez said. "We know that's going to take us to where we want to be."
Not taking anything for granted, Yepez went back to attacking the basket, which worked so well earlier in the game. She dropped six of her 14 points in the final frame, while Dalhousie's Chloe Wilson countered with five of her team-high 13 points. The Tigers took the quarter 17-16, but it wasn't nearly enough, as the Panthers cruised to the 65-48 win.
UPEI ends the semester Nov. 23 at home where they'll take on a tough Cape Breton squad. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan