© Guardian Photo By Jason Malloy
Laura Power, right, goes for the block as Candace Smith takes a shot during Thursday’s UPEI Panthers practice.
The UPEI Panthers women’s basketball team looks for its first .500 season in 14 years tonight in Atlantic University Sport (AUS) action.
The Panthers (9-10) conclude the regular season tonight by hosting the St. F.X. X-Women (9-9) at 6 p.m.
“If we win on Friday, it will give us a 10-10 season which is quite remarkable given where we were two years ago,” said coach Greg Gould.
He took over the program in the summer of 2012. The club had won four games during the previous four seasons, including a pair of winless campaigns.
While the Panthers and X-Women both have nine wins this season, St. F.X. is 10 points ahead of them in the standings. The conference uses an unbalanced schedule with four points being awarded for victories between teams meeting twice during the season and two points for victories between teams meeting four times.
UPEI is in sixth place while St. F.X. is third. The Panthers have already earned a playoff berth and will host the conference championship from March 7 to 9.
Gould said there are plenty of playoff scenarios in play heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
“At this point we’re just trying to win a ball game,” Gould said. “We think if we play as well as we have been playing, and maybe a little bit better, we certainly can play with X.”
The Panthers are coming off a split in St. John’s, N.L., last weekend. In doing so, they become only the second team in the conference, joining undefeated Saint Mary’s, to win at Memorial.
The X-Women provide a different matchup them Memorial did.
“You have to prepare for everything,” Gould said. “They are going to show you multiple defences and they have a ton of offensive talent.”
Vanessa Pickard and Lia St. Pierre, who both average 15 points per game, lead a deep St. F.X. squad. Pickard, who played for Gould in high school, has missed some recent games with injuries and her status for tonight’s contest was not available.
Amy Gough is the Panthers top scorer at 12.6 points per game while Danielle MacDonald is averaging 10 a game.
The Panthers will be without third-year forward Terrilyn Herrick (sprained ankle) tonight. The team might also be without two other players following deaths in their families.
The men Panthers are looking to bounce back after dropping two games last weekend at Memorial.
It won’t be easy, as the team has had an unusual week with only one full practice (Thursday) in the past seven days. UPEI left last Thursday to get to Halifax for Friday’s flight to St. John’s, N.L., played Saturday and Sunday, but the weather delayed some players not getting back to Charlottetown until noon Tuesday.
“We don’t have time to lament or feel sorry for ourselves,” coach Tim Kendrick said. “We have to make sure we respond accordingly.”
The fourth-place Panthers
(10-9) host the third-place X-Men (11-7) at 8 p.m.
Deontay (D.J.) Smith and Ellis Ffrench lead UPEI in scoring at 16 and 14 points, respectively. William Donkoh is St. F.X.’s top scorer at 16 a game.
UPEI will recognize seniors Aaron Robbins, of Stratford, and Joe Kendrick before tonight’s start.
The Panthers have already clinched a playoff berth and could finish third or fourth. The AUS championships take place at the Halifax Metro Centre from Feb. 28 to March 2.
Panther Fans interested in taking the fan bus can sign up by visiting or calling Panther Central at 566-0368. Cost is $90 plus the game ticket.
The bus will depart UPEI on Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. and return on March 2 after the championship game. Seats will be not confirmed unless paid and a minimum of 40 people is required by noon Wednesday for the bus to go.
Ticket packages can be purchased by contacting the Ticket Atlantic Box Office at 451-1221 or visiting www.ticketatlantic.com.
Panther fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in Section 6. Panther students can purchase floor tickets for every game UPEI is playing. A limited number are available. Contact, or visit, Panther Central at 566-0368.