Short-staffed Panthers looking to knock off undefeated Capers tonight
© Guardian Photo By Jason Malloy
Lorenzo Parker is one of the UPEI Panthers rookies who has seen more playing time with the roster ravaged by injuries this season.
Tim Kendrick is looking for a little déjà vu tonight.
The UPEI Panthers men’s basketball team walks into Cape Breton University to play the country’s second-ranked team.
“We’re the only team right now that has gone into a team already ranked No. 2 in the country and beat them,” coach Kendrick said, referring to the Panthers’ victory at Acadia in early January. “We’re going to try do the same thing again.”
It won’t be easy.
The Capers are 14-0 while the third-place Panthers (8-4) are coming off back-to-back losses last weekend against Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s.
Tonight’s game is worth four points in the standings while Saturday’s game at fourth-place St. F.X. (6-7) is worth two.
And a team besieged by injuries this season continues to see players go down.
Mandrez Downey is out this weekend after injuring his ankle early in the second half of the Dalhousie game. Aaron Rogers will be a game-time decision tonight with an ankle injury.
“We just kind of get rolling a bit and another one hits us,” Kendrick said.
“We’re getting down to looking around the university (for players). We’re not quite there yet, but realistically we’re getting close.”
The team is likely to dress seven or eight healthy bodies tonight and Saturday at St. F.X. while a healthy team would consist of 12. Terrence Brown is back after missing the Dalhousie game with the flu. The shortened bench changes what the coaching staff can do with its game plan.
“We won’t be able to pressure as much,” Kendrick said. “You can’t wear guys out.”
The injuries have resulted in some bright spots with some young players getting more opportunities.
“(Lorenzo Parker’s) really come on in a big way for us lately,” Kendrick said. “Brian O’Fori has had some good stretches for us and Sammy (Otieno) has had a really good week of practice for us.”
It’s now or never for the UPEI Panthers women’s basketball team.
The Panthers are in Sydney, N.S., tonight to play the Cape Breton Capers, one of two teams UPEI is chasing for a playoff spot. Memorial is fifth with 16 points, CBU is sixth with 10 and UPEI eighth with four. Adding to the equation is tonight’s victory is worth four points.
“It’s getting to that crunch time now where you can’t afford to lose too many more to those teams,” coach Greg Gould said.
The top six teams make the playoffs. But if the University of New Brunswick, which is seventh with six points, doesn’t end up in the top six, only the top five teams qualify as UNB is hosting the event.
Tonight’s contest will be the first meeting of the season between the Capers and Panthers.
“They have some good shooters and are very quick,” Gould said. “They’re not a big team, but they execute their offence very well.”
Point guard Tanira McClurkin leads the Capers in scoring at 15 points per game.
Amy Gough and Nakita Newman lead the Panthers, averaging 10.8 points per game.
The Panthers can make up some ground as it has 26 points still available to them while CBU and Memorial both have 16.
UPEI also plays five four-point games in the next three consecutive weekends.
UPEI completes this weekend’s games Saturday in Antigonish against the X-Women, who have 26 points and are tied for second place. UPEI beat them 85-81 in mid-November.
The conference championship rotates among the teams annually. UPEI hosts the event in 2014.