For Newfoundland-natives Laura Power and Amy Gough, this weekend’s Atlantic University Sport basketball matchup versus the Memorial University Sea-Hawks should be a special one.
For the UPEI Panthers duo, it’s a chance to square off against the team they grew up watching.
Women’s game times are today at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre. The men’s teams will do battle following both women’s games, at 8 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.
“Our Newfs definitely get a little extra fired up when playing Memorial,” said women’s head coach Carly Clarke.
“They know most of the girls on the team from growing up and playing with or against them. When you are playing against your friends there is always a little extra inspiration to get after it.”
For her part, 20-year-old forward Laura Power isn’t treating the game any differently.
“It’s no different than playing any other team in the AUS,” she said of facing the Sea-Hawks. “They’re the opponent and I want to beat them.”
Power did admit it was “interesting” to play Memorial. Growing up, she played on provincial teams with some current Sea-Hawks players, and has a good handle on their strengths and weaknesses.
Her father, Paul Power, is also scheduled to make the trip from St. John’s.
“I am excited for him to be here supporting the team, and to experience the home game environment,” Power told The Guardian.
Majoring in foods and nutrition at UPEI, Power did not play basketball last year while she rehabbed a knee injury and focused on her studies.
“I missed it so much that I had to go back,” she admitted.
This year, she is averaging eight points and 3.5 rebounds in just over 20 minutes a game.
Coach Clarke said she has been pleased with Power’s play.
“She had a bit of a slow start due to a preseason injury,” she said. “(But) she is finding her way more and more every day and getting more comfortable with how we like to play.”
Power is “fitting in nicely,” Clarke added. “We are very pleased she is a Panther.”
In the teams’ previous doubleheader in November, UPEI emerged from St. John’s with a split, after collecting their first win in three seasons by a score of 77-73.
The Sea-Hawks (6-6) are currently riding a four-game losing streak. The Panthers (2-10) believe they can beat them again.
“Our keys to beating them the first time were sticking to and executing our defensive game plan for 40 minutes,” said coach Clarke. “We really defended well and made them work for their scores. We also hit shots when we needed to, but more importantly found the shots we needed.
“We can definitely beat them again,” she said.
The men’s Panthers (9-3) will aim to strengthen their hold on first-place this weekend, when hosting the last-place Sea-Hawks (1-11).
Today, the team will introduce a new recognition program to honour former student athletes, coaches and builders who contributed to the storied history of UPEI basketball.
The first Panther alumnus to be honoured is former MVP and 1973’s outstanding male athlete of the year Andy Packard.
A product of Maine, Packard was an outstanding scoring centre from 1971 to 1974. His long, flowing hair was also memorable.
All basketball alumni will be admitted to the game for no cost.
“UPEI is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of former great Andy Packard and introduce an extended recognition program of its Sports Hall of Fame,” said athletics director Ron Annear.
“This new platform will allow additional individuals to receive appropriate recognition for their contributions to our sport history."