UPEI basketball team turned its season around after losing its first four games
The UPEI Panthers men’s basketball team believes in one another.
The squad started the season 0-4 and was trailing by nine points with eight minutes to play in its fifth game before battling back to win by one.
The Panthers heard the whispers around campus, town and the conference. They bought into the system and Friday will play in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) men’s basketball championship as the third seed.
Ellis Ffrench said the team’s mental toughness showed during the early part of the season.
“I think we’re pretty strong,” he said. “Other people outside the room had their heads down about the start of our season, but we kind of knew what we were building and we knew what we were focusing on to the end of the season.
“We’ve accomplished it and we’re kind of ready to show what we’ve been working on all season (towards).”
The team is battled tested after overcoming the adversity early on this season.
“I think we’ve been through every possible scenario over the past few months. That is going to prepare us for this weekend,” Ffrench said.
UPEI won its first two games by a combined two points, has gone to overtime with teams and lost a pair of games at Memorial late in the season that hurt its chances of earning one of two first-round byes.
“I know people were disappointed, no one more than us in the locker room,” said senior Joe Kendrick.
“I think it kind of stirred a little something in us and we showed that coming out and beating X as handily as we did” in the final game of the regular season.
He added it is a perfect way to “catapult” the team into the playoffs.
UPEI has defeated all six teams in this weekend’s playoffs and the players believe it’s a matter of taking care of their own business to capture the university’s first men’s basketball title since 2002-03.
“When we play hard, I don’t think there’s a team that can really stay with us,” Kendrick said. “Our level of effort, and what we put in, is going to dictate our outcome.”
Ffrench said the energy level has been high this week at practice.
“We have been prepping for this, and waiting for this all year, so we’re getting ready to go.”