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McDonald's historic performance propels Acadia to AUS Final 6 women's hoops final

Third-year guard Hayley McDonald leads the defending AUS champion Acadia Axewomen into this week’s Final 6 tournament at Scotiabank Centre. - Acadia Athletics
Haley McDonald scored an Atlantic university women's basketball record 51 points on Saturday. - ACADIA ATHLETICS

Axewomen third-year guard scores conference-record 51 points in 88-84 semifinal victory over UPEI Panthers

History was made Saturday afternoon as Haley McDonald put the Acadia Axewomen on her back and carried them to a spirited semifinal victory.

The third-year guard from Port Williams called her performance an "out-of-body" experience.

Others said, "simply amazing."

Only one player in AUS women's basketball - Carol Turney of Saint Mary's on Dec. 3, 1976 - had ever reached the 50-point mark in a single game. McDonald eclipsed that standard by one, in an AUS Final 6 playoff game no less, by scoring 51 in a thrilling 88-84 win over the No. 2-ranked UPEI Panthers at Scotiabank Centre.

"I have never had my game come together like that before," said McDonald, who had 32 points in the second half alone. "Normally it's one way or the other. I'm either shooting pretty well or getting to the basket pretty well. But today, it was just a good combo of everything. I can't describe it."

McDonald, who was 10-for-11 from the free-throw line and drained five three-pointers, propels the third-seeded Axewomen into Sunday's championship final (1 p.m.) against the No. 5 Memorial Sea-Hawks.

"This is exactly what we worked for all year," said McDonald, an AUS first-team all-star who finished second in conference scoring during the regular season (23.3). "Since I was in Grade 7, I dreamt of this day. I've put lots of time in so it's so nice to see all of the results come in. I can't wait to compete with my team tomorrow. We have put in so much time and effort to get to this point. This is were we want to be."

Only one other Acadia player reached double digits in points on Saturday. Ellen Hatt had 10.

Jenna Mae Ellsworth paced the Panthers with 28 points, while Reese Baxendale added 24.

UPEI, down 11 in the fourth quarter, cut the deficit to a single possession in the dying seconds but couldn't catch Acadia.

The Axewomen, who never trailed in the game, held the dangerous Panthers to under 30 per cent shooting. UPEI was just 4-for-15 from beyond the arc.

"It's survive and advance, man," said McDonald, who's previous AUS single-game high was 36 points, which she scored on Jan. 13.

"UPEI is a super tough team. They beat us three times this year. We knew we had to bring something special. Everyone had to play their best or at least accommodate each other. My team did a great job for me today. I can't have a game like that without the support of my teammates.

"Now we have to face another super tough team in MUN," she added. "They have a lot of weapons like Sydney Stewart, who's an amazing player, Sydney Ezekiel, who's as tough as they come. We're both in the same situation. They'll play three games, we'll have played three games. It's an even playing field tomorrow. It should be a great game."

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