By Thomas Becker
There's a common saying in sports suggesting defence wins championships. While the UPEI Panthers aren't thinking that far ahead, Saturday's 71-61 win over the Memorial Sea-Hawks showed fans a glimpse at what their team is capable of on that end of the floor.
The Panthers held Memorial – a team that shoots a respectable 44.4 per cent on the season – to just 33.3 per cent on the night. They also made life difficult on their top scorer, Daniel Gordon (18.2 points per game), who shot a miserable 2-of-15 from the field and limited him to just 11 points.
"For three and a half quarters we were really good defensively," said Panthers head coach Darrell Glenn. "There were possessions where we were as good as we could be."
UPEI struggled at times putting the ball through the hoop as well, but overcame their woes by dishing the ball to their big man for some easy baskets. D'Adrian Allen came off the bench and was a beast in the middle scoring 17 points (on 8-of-12 shooting) and grabbing 10 boards for his fourth double-double of the season.
"I just wanted to play hard and be aggressive," said Allen, who was named Subway Player of the Game. "I knew the team (Memorial) was a little bit small, so I took advantage of my size down low and posted up."
With the win, the Panthers (3-12) earned a big four points in the standing and now trail the sixth-seeded Sea-Hawks (4-11) by just six points in their quest for the final playoff spot.
"Coach doesn't focus on the wins and losses. The main thing we focus on is improving as a team," Allen said. "We understand that it's an important four-point game, but we came out today looking at what we can do to be better."
If you're a fan of defence, the Panthers certainly delivered it in the first quarter. Every shot was contested as they held the Sea-Hawks to just six points on an ice-cold 11.1 per cent from the field.
UPEI struggled shooting as well (just 33.3 per cent), but still carried a 16-6 lead into the second. Amin Suleman led the way with five, while Allen chipped in with four off the bench.
Memorial shot significantly better in the second quarter, where they outscored their opponent 20-17. Greg Manuel scored seven of his 15 points to help shave the deficit, while Suleman's 10 points led all scorers at the break, including a deep two at the buzzer to give UPEI a 33-26 advantage.
The Panthers struggled hitting a shot in the early minutes of the second half, allowing the visiting Sea-Hawks to claw back. Manuel single-handedly trimmed the deficit to 35-32 with three consecutive baskets to open the third.
However, UPEI responded in a big way by feeding their big man in the paint. Allen countered with seven straight points, followed by a Bryce Corless triple as the Panthers seized control 52-37 with a quarter remaining.
The home team quickly opened up a 20-point advantage in the fourth and Memorial tried to whittle it down, but couldn't solve UPEI's ferocious defence. Led by Davion Parnsalu's 13-point quarter, the Sea-Hawks managed to get within 11, but with two minutes to spare, the hole was too deep to climb out of as the Panthers held on for the 71-61 final.
"Coach has been preaching defence all year long. We've worked on defence more than we work on offence," Allen said. "We're really gelling right now defensively. We're understanding what coach wants and we're just trying to be everywhere."
The Panthers hit the hardwood again on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. as they look for the weekend split against Memorial.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan