(HALIFAX, N.S.) In Saturday afternoon's second women's semifinal matchup of the Subway AUS Basketball Championship, the No. 3-seeded UPEI Panthers earned a close 78-73 victory over the second-seeded Cape Breton Capers.
AUS Rookie of the Year Reese Baxendale (Sussex, N.B.) led the Panthers with a game-high 24 points, adding four rebounds, two assists, and three steals to win Subway Player of the Game honours.
The Capers started off hot in the first quarter, going on an 8-0 run throughout the first five minutes of play. UPEI began to turn things around throughout the second half of the frame, to cut the Capers' lead to three, for a 20-17 game at the end of the first.
Hannah Brown (North Sydney, N.S.) led the Capers with 11 points and two rebounds throughout the first 10 minutes of play.
A three-pointer from UPEI's Jenna Mae Ellsworth (Charlottetown, P.E.I) just under a minute into the second quarter tied things up at 20-20, as the Panthers looked to pull ahead. UPEI took off to a lead, holding a 32-26 edge with six minutes remaining in the frame.
The Capers fought to stay in it, clawing their way back with UPEI holding a 36-32 edge at the half. UPEI outscored Cape Breton 19-12 in the second frame.
To start off the third quarter, a three from Cape Breton's MacKenzee Ryan (Glace Bay, N.S.) tied the game at 38-38, as the Capers surged to regain their lead. The Capers held a 43-38 edge with six minutes remaining in the third.
A layup from Ellsworth tied things back up at 45-45 with two minutes remaining in the frame, as the Panthers finished the third back on top 51-50.
UPEI jumped out to a 60-54 lead just two minutes into the final quarter, until a three from Cape Breton's Madison Munro (Truro, N.S.) looked to keep the Capers alive as they trailed by five points with under five minutes left to play.
Munro scored her second three of the night, to tie things up at 72-72 with two minutes remaining.
With just 34 seconds left on the clock, Baxendale allowed the Panthers to pull ahead with a three-pointer. Baxendale then sealed the deal for UPEI with two successful free throws to give the Panthers the 78-73 victory.
Ellsworth finished the game with 18 points and three assists, while teammate Jane McLaughlin (Fortune, P.E.I.) finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, and three steals to earn the Wilson's Security Defensive Player of the Game honours. Panthers guard Karla Yepez (Quito, Equador) added 17 points and three assists in the victory.
AUS first team all-star Alison Keough (Marion Bridge, N.S.) led the Capers with a double-double, with 22 points, 17 rebounds and adding four steals, while teammate and fellow first team all-star Brown finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. AUS all-rookie team member Ryan finished with 13 points and two assists in the loss.
The UPEI Panthers will now move on to face the Acadia Axewomen in the Subway AUS Women's Basketball Championship Finals, Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Scotiabank Centre.