By Thomas Becker
Ever since she joined the UPEI Panthers, Reese Baxendale has been known to come up clutch in big moments.
Down six with 4:06 remaining, the third-year guard scored nine of the team's final 11 points, as the Panthers (2-0) came back to earn the 60-57 win over the Saint Mary's Huskies (0-2).
"It's all my teammates. We run our cuts well, execute our plays and we find the open shooter. Tonight it was me," she said.
While the win is nice, head coach Matt Gamblin acknowledged there's plenty of work to be done to get better.
"Overall, we don't want to be in that situation – down six with four minutes left," he said. "We need to start with a better sense of urgency so we don't get in that spot."
After a rough offensive showing the night before, the Huskies came out strong as Clara Gascoigne drilled a pair of threes early to give them a quick 6-2 lead. On the other side, Carolina Del Santo poured in five early, including an old fashioned three-point effort, as the Panthers pulled ahead 9-8.
UPEI went cold in the second, scoring just 13 points on 23.1 per cent shooting. The Huskies, meanwhile, shot 50 per cent thanks to their bench unit that came to life in the frame. Katelyn Power, Sarah, Forgie and Estelle Eduardo combined for 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, while Gascoigne scored another six points, as the visitors carried a 32-28 advantage into the break. Gascoigne led all scorers with 12 of her team-high 17 points at the half.
The Panthers leaned on their veterans in the third. Ellsworth and Baxendale made a jumper each before Yepez went to work on the inside with back-to-back layups, as they pulled ahead 37-36. But the Huskies closed the quarter on a 9-0 run and carried a 45-39 lead.
UPEI rookies, Ashleigh Marshall and Lexi MacInnis, drained back-to-back triples early in the fourth and kept their team within three. The Huskies extended their lead back to seven, 53-46, before the home team dug deep on both ends of the floor.
When Baxendale returned to the floor at the 5:37 mark, she took it upon herself to push her team across the finish line with the win. With a mix of long range jumpers and drives to the basket that resulted in free throws, Baxendale put up nine of her team-high 17 points to send them to 2-0. The defence also stepped up down the stretch, as the Panthers held the visitors to just four points in the final seven minutes of the game. Del Santo contested everything near the rim and finished with 14 rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
"We realized we had to get our butts in gear and figure out what we needed to do get this 'W', even if it was ugly," Baxendale said.
The Panthers return to the hardwood when they visit the St. FX X-Women for back-to-back games on Nov. 8 and 9.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan