By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers were dealt a tough blow last weekend when all-stars Carolina Del Santo and Jenna Mae Ellsworth fell to injuries.
With both out of the lineup Friday night, the Panthers rose to the challenge and took down the Dalhousie Tigers 66-63.
Reese Baxendale led all scorers with 20 points and also chipped in with six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Lauren Rainford and Annabelle Charron each reached double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Defensively, the Panthers did a much better job than last Saturday when they surrendered 96 points to the St. FX X-Women.
"We really prepared ourselves to play better defence because we knew Dalhousie was going to play hard," said Charron, who was named the Subway Player of the Game.
Baskets were hard to come by in the opening quarter, but the Tigers were able to jump out to a 10-4 lead thanks to Hannah Chadwick's six early points. After burning a timeout, The Panthers shut them down the rest of the way and took the quarter 13-10.
UPEI's defence continued to stifle their opponent in the second and forced them into 11 turnovers, leading to easy run outs and baskets, which was helpful in a defensive grind. Baxendale had eight in the half, as the Panthers went into the break up 27-20. Chadwick countered with eight of her team-high 13 points.
"We were strong in the first half, but not the second," said Panthers head coach Matt Gamblin. "They made adjustments that we took too long to respond to."
Both offences found their stride in the third quarter and matched each other basket for basket. Charron took over midway through the frame, when she scored eight of the team's next 10 points on a series of long range jumpers to keep pace with their opponent.
"We had difficulty getting the offence going early, but we relaxed in the second half and found our rhythm," Charron said.
The Tigers, meanwhile, took advantage of the Panthers' small lineup and attacked the rim at every opportunity, as they shot a blistering 58.8 per cent from the field. Their bench stepped up big, scoring 10 of the 25 third-quarter points.
"For us, when we play fast and are shooting the ball well, we still have to play hard on defence and I though we got away from that," Gamblin said.
Dalhousie continued their strong play early in the fourth where they went on a 6-2 run to trim the deficit to one, 52-51. Each time the visitors inched closer, the Panthers countered and never surrendered the lead.
Baxendale, as she so often does, delivered down the stretch. Despite a tough shooting night, the third-year guard put her head down and drove to the basket for layups and free throws each time a lane presented itself. She finished the night scoring eight of the team's final 14 points to secure the 66-63 win.
UPEI looks to make it two in a row when they on Dalhousie again on Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.