By Thomas Becker
The Acadia Axemen caught fire at the right time and pulled out an 88-78 overtime win on the road against the UPEI Panthers.
The Axemen (3-5) went 7-for-10 from the field in the extra frame, including 3-of-4 from deep, as they outscored the Panthers 19-9.
Jack Tilley and Brett Speedy each drilled a triple in overtime and finished with 12 apiece off the bench. Marcus Upshaw then connected on the dagger three with 38 seconds remaining. He finished with 13 points.
"It just took an extra five minutes to get us going, but credit to our guys who stepped up and made shots," said Axemen head coach Kevin Duffie.
There was a sense of urgency to the game with it being of the four-point variety. And with both teams looking to get back in the playoff hunt, a win was almost necessary.
"A win is a win, but it does feel nice to get that little bump. Conversely, when you lose them (four-point games) it kind of sucks."
Elijah Miller did his part to help the Panthers (2-6) and finished with a game-high 27 points. Teammate Kamari Scott had 13 off the bench, while starting bigs Magdi Tiea and Jamesley Jerome scored 12 apiece.
The Panthers came out strong in the first and connected on three straight triples — two by Miller and another by Adam Ryan — as they opened up a 17-7 lead. However they struggled to close the quarter and were held scoreless for the final 4:35, allowing the Axemen to get back in it 17-13.
Led once again by Miller, UPEI opened up another double-digit lead early in the second. Acadia was able to sustain the run because of Speedy, who scored nine of his team's 18 second-quarter points. Speedy was especially good late in the quarter when he connected on two straight triples before the half to make it a 36-31 game.
Upshaw came out of the break strong for the Axemen and looked inside for back-to-back layups trimming the deficit to just one, forcing the Panthers to call a quick timeout. Following the breather, Ryan Munro drilled a three to give Acadia their first lead of the game 38-36. That was pushed to 43-38 moments later after Forest Mahoney converted an old fashioned three-point play.
Down five, a trio of rookies stepped up for UPEI and attacked the basket for some high-percentage looks. First it was Glen Cox who converted a layup, followed by another from Tiea and two straight for Scott, as the home team stormed back in front 46-43.
However, the visitors closed the quarter on a 13-6 run and regained the lead 56-52. Rowan Power was a big reason why, scoring five of his 11 third-quarter points in the final minute. The third-year forward had a team-high 20 points with 13 rebounds and was named the Subway Player of the Game. Fellow starter Munro was the fifth Axeman to finish in double figures with his 16 points.
Duffie applauded his team's resilience after coming back from a large deficit early, surrendering the lead and coming back again.
"You're not winning a game on one possession or one quarter in this league," he said. "So you just have to be persistent and just know that you can't get too high when it's going well and you can't get too low when it's not."
After going scoreless in the first three quarters, Tilley came to life in the fourth, scoring seven straight points with a mix of layups and a long-range jumper to push Acadia's advantage to 63-56.
Down eight with 6:51 remaining, The Panthers buckled down on defence and closed the quarter on a 11-3 run, capped off by two big free throws from Jerome to send the game to overtime tied at 69.
Jerome connected on two more free throws to begin the extra frame, but then Acadia simply took over and found their shooting stroke at the right time. The Axemen scored 19 points in the period — their second best scoring output of the night — despite it being a shortened five minutes.
The Panthers' push toward the playoffs continues on Jan. 10 when they travel to Saint Mary's to take on the Huskies.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan