The UPEI Panthers are going to the Atlantic University Sport men’s basketball final for the first time in head coach Tim Kendrick’s five-year tenure.
The Panthers started on fire on Saturday, jumping out to an 11-0 lead en route to an 87-66 victory over the Acadia Axemen in semifinal play at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
They will play the defending-champion Dalhousie Tigers Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in the final.
"It’s wonderful,” head coach Tim Kendrick said. “It’s great for our kids. . . we’re just proud of how hard they work. It’s great for our program, it’s great for our school and our fans.
“We’re happy to be here but we have another step to take.”
Dut Dut led a balanced Panthers attack on Saturday with 21 points and 19 rebounds.
Bradley States had 15 points while Amin Suleman and Lorenzo Parker each added 14 and Tyler Scott 12.
Ben Miller led the Axemen with 19 points while Erik Nissen had 13 and Kyle Arsenault added 11.
The Panthers held quarter leads of 27-6, 50-20 and 77-50.
The Axemen made a run by hitting a slew of three-point shots in the third to cut the lead to 15, but the Panthers withstood the push and had the lead back to 27 by the end of the quarter.
“We have a lot of respect for teams in our league,” Kendrick said. “We took their best shot. . . We answered the bell.”
States was being treated for a calf injury after the game, but Kendrick said he expected the forward to play Sunday.
The top-ranked Tigers defeated the Saint Mary’s Huskies 75-74 in the other semifinal. Dalhousie swept UPEI this season, winning 79-78 in Charlottetown and 94-81 in Halifax.
“We’re a little different team now,” Kendrick said. "I promise you one thing we’ll show up at 4:30.”
Saturday's victory was Kendrick's 100th as a UPEI coach. It includes pre-season, regular season and playoff games.
“I’d like to start the next 100 tomorrow,” Kendrick said.