Basketball Panthers dominate Capers 96-79 in final game of season

Marcel Vander Wier
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UPEI Panthers

Power forward Manock Lual made sure his final game at the University of Prince Edward Island was a memorable one.

The fifth-year Panther scored 24 points, adding seven rebounds and seven steals as UPEI dominated the Cape Breton Capers with a 96-79 win in their final game of the season.

With the win, the Panthers finish in third place with a record of 13-7, their top finish in Atlantic University Sport's recent history.

The Panthers did not lose at home this season, going 10-0 at the Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre.

Lual dominated the contest from start to finish. He slam-dunked, hit three-pointers and even drew a huge charging foul in the second quarter to foil a Capers 4-on-1 break.

"I say thank you for everything," the ever-amiable team co-captain said post-game. "There's a time for everyone. My time's come, my time's gone. I feel like I played to the best that I could. I gave you guys everything. Next is Terrence (Brown). Next is Donnie (Moss). Next is Ollen (Smith). Next is Rickyle (Beals). The next guys are stepping up now. It's time for the next generation.

"Me and Cooper? We're really proud to have played in front of everyone and did what we could have done."

The 6-foot-6 Lual and 6-foot-2 Jonathan Cooper were honoured prior to the game for their years in the Panther program. Each received a framed action photo and plenty of praise from head coach Tim Kendrick.

Cooper had 18 points and seven assists in his final appearance on the UPEI hardcourt. He spent most of the contest dueling with the AUS' leading scorer, James Dorsey III, who finished with 27 points to lead all scorers.

Both Lual and Cooper received standing ovations from the packed gymnasium and hugs from Kendrick when they exited the game late in the fourth quarter.

UPEI forward Jermaine Duke also had a standout performance, finishing with 17 points, 14 boards and four blocks.

Lual has been the face of the university's basketball program since he arrived in 2007.

"I've come a long way with basketball," Lual said. "If basketball was a woman, that's the lady I would marry. I'm telling you right now, that's the lady I would marry.

"Really, in truth, basketball kept me away from a lot of problems in the streets, kept me away from all the problems in school. I always had basketball with me," the 23-year-old Ottawa-native told The Guardian.

"To have a crowd and support, and for Coach Kendrick to come in and revive the program, I really feel right now that that was the best way to leave, with the ambitions that I now have for next year."

The Panthers will now prepare for the AUS championship this weekend in Halifax.

They will face the sixth-place Saint Mary's Huskies in the quarterfinals Friday at 8:15 p.m.

The semifinals go Saturday, with the final set for Sunday at 2 p.m.

"This year's not over yet," said Lual. "We still, in our minds, have seven games left. So we're going for that. We win in sixes. Everyone knows we win in sixes. I'm not trying to sound cocky or anything, but the record shows that we win games in sixes. So I believe we can win the next six and get into the (CIS) finals ... I don't think we'd allow ourselves to lose."

Prior to Saturday's win, all of the Panthers victories have come on two six-game winning streaks.

While confident, Lual and his team know it's a long, tough road ahead. They remain committed to tackling one game at a time.

Coach Kendrick refused to take credit for the program's resurgence this season, instead redirecting all of the praise towards his players.

He called both Lual and Cooper "great ambassadors" for both the university and the province, thanking the duo for playing with their hearts.

Kendrick also thanked the fans for their continued support, and added a special message as the Panthers head into the playoffs.

"We're going to try and do something special," he said.

Capers coach Thomas Gillespie said Kendrick's done a good job utilizing his players' abilities.

"They want to get out and run," he said. "They're using their athleticism to put pressure on teams, so he's playing to their strengths. They seem to be having an enjoyable time playing for each other. When you get guys on the same page, you can do a lot of great things."

With the loss, the Capers fall to fourth in the AUS. They will face the defending-champion Dalhousie Tigers in Friday's other quarterfinal.

Women's basketball

The last-place Panthers dropped their final game of the season 90-71 at the hands of the second-place Cape Breton Capers.

The Panthers finish with a record of 2-18.

Capers' guard Cassie Cook dominated throughout the contest, finishing with a game-high 27 points.

Panther Jenna Jones netted 21 for UPEI, going 5-for-6 from three-point range.

Cape Breton stormed out to a 27-12 lead after one quarter, and never trailed in the game.

It was an emotional game for captain Katie Moore, who played her final game as a Panther.

She fought back tears when she came out of the game for the final time, embracing her coach Carly Clarke, and sharing hugs with her teammates.

She was honoured publicly by Clarke post-game.

Organizations: Panthers, University of Prince Edward Island, Atlantic University Sport Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre.Lual The Guardian

Geographic location: Cape Breton, Ottawa, Halifax.They Saint Mary

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