The UPEI Panthers nearly pulled off a major upset Friday in Atlantic University Sport women’s basketball action in Charlottetown.
The Panthers saw a nine-point lead at the half quickly evaporated as Saint Mary’s opened the third on a 10-0 run.
They stayed with the Huskies the rest of the way before losing 73-70 to the country's fourth-ranked team.
“It was crushing,” said guard Nakita Newman, “but we know there’s a few things we can fix up for tomorrow.”
The Panthers led 68-67 with 70 seconds to go, had an open shot to increase the lead to three with 34 seconds to play, but could not convert.
Justine Colley, the country’s leading scorer, made a three-point play with 14 seconds to go and Laura Langille hit two free throws four seconds later to give the visitors a four-point lead.
“It’s definitely rough. We’re a little upset about it,” said guard Tamara Tompkins, who drew a couple big charges late in the game to give the Panthers a few more touches with the ball. “Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get (the win).”
The Panthers are now 1-7 while the Huskies are 8-0.
Newman said the Panthers refuse to roll over even when strong teams make runs against them.
“We keep fighting,” Newman said. “We’re just so committed to getting a win for us, for our coach and our fans.”
The two teams play again today at 4 p.m.
“I’m really proud of our kids. . . It came right down to the last minute of play. I truly believe we had a chance to tie it,” said coach Greg Gould.
“I feel bad for my kids because I thought they worked hard enough, and played hard enough, tonight to get the win.”
He said the Panthers need to get hands in shooters’ faces and improve the defensive rebounding. Amy Gough had 12 rebounds in the first half and 18 for the game.
“I thought she did a great job on the boards,” Gould said. “But the bottom line was, late in the game when the game was on the line, we gave up too many offensive rebounds.”
Colley scored 21 of her 28 points in the second half to lead the way.
“She’s a fantastic player,” Newman. “I thought we did really well with her today. All of our guards, Julia (McKenna), Tamara, Katie (Donahoe), all stepped up.”
Mandrez Downey and Terrence Brown were hot from downtown Friday night.
Downey was 6-for-12 and Brown 5-for-7 to propel the Panthers to a lopsided 95-66 victory over Saint Mary’s.
“It starts in practice,” said Downey, who scored 30 points off the bench. “We work hard and we were just playing our game the way we’re suppose to play.”
The team hit 40.6 per cent of its 32 shots from behind the arc and 42.5 per cent from the floor.
Downey said the team’s good movement created some open looks for the shooters.
“We feed off each others’ energy,” he said. “One guy is going and then we’re all going.”
The game was tied at 20 two minutes into the second quarter when the Panthers went on a 14-0 run during the next three and a half minutes to give them a lead they would never relinquish.
The Panthers had a 46-28 lead at the half and closed out the game by winning the fourth 30-20.
With the game comfortably in hand, coach Tim Kendrick got Brandon Wallace and Lucas Coughlin some time on the court.
The two forwards were redshirts this year until injuries forced the coach to make a move.
Both received a large applause from the crowd when they entered the game.
Downey said the team would quickly turn the page and prepare for tonight’s rematch.
“We aren’t worried about this once. This game is over, we just have to look for the next one.”
UPEI – 73
Saint Mary’s – 70
At the half
UPEI – 34
Saint Mary’s –25
UPEI – Katelynn Donahoe 14, Emily MacEachern 12, Jenna Jones 10
Saint Mary’s – Justine Colley 28, Lindsay Panchan 14, Laura Langille 12
UPEI – Amy Gough 18
Saint Mary’s – Amanda Smith 11
UPEI – 6 of 9
Saint Mary’s – 19 of 26
Saint Mary’s at UPEI – today at 4 p.m.
UPEI – 95
Saint Mary’s – 66
At the half
UPEI – 46
Saint Mary’s –28
UPEI – Mandrez Downey 30, Terrence Brown 19, Jermaine Duke 8.
Saint Mary’s – Brian Rouse 20, Jeremy McAvoy 8, Harry Ezenibe.
UPEI – Jermaine Duke and Deontay Smith 10
Saint Mary’s – Osman Odol 10.
Saint Mary’s at UPEI – today at 6 p.m.