By Thomas Becker
The UPEI Panthers expect a lot from their team this season, which is why an 88-74 win over the injury-plagued Cape Breton Capers left a bittersweet taste in their mouths Friday night.
The Panthers (1-0) took advantage of a Capers (0-1) squad that was without some of its best players, including reigning AUS most valuable player Osman Omar and fellow all-star Paul Watson.
UPEI put together a solid first half in which they outscored their opponent 44-27, but it was a much closer battle in the second half, where the Capers cut the deficit to as few as nine points midway through the fourth quarter.
Not exactly what head coach Darrell Glenn had in mind for his team.
"Any time you get a win in the AUS, you take it," Glenn said. "But we're trying to get to a certain level, and that performance is not going to cut it."
Both teams traded baskets in the opening five minutes before the Panthers went on a 15-1 run thanks to Isaiah Ankra's stellar shooting. The fifth-year guard scored 11 of his game-high 23 points in that stretch as his team stormed ahead 28-13.
After a slow start to the second quarter, UPEI found their rhythm again and extended their lead to 44-23 thanks to a 10-2 run. The Capers closed the quarter with four straight points, but found themselves down 17 at halftime.
Kamari Scott came out the break strong, scoring five of the team's first seven points to extend the lead to 51-30. Down 20 with 4:25 to go in the third, Cape Breton's Justus Peuser put the team on his back to keep them in it. The rookie guard scored 12 of his team's 24 third-quarter points to make it a 67-53 game heading into the final frame. Peuser finished with a team-high 22 points in his AUS debut.
The Capers kept chipping away and got it to single digits with 5:15 to go, but Ankra wasn't letting them get any closer as he scored seven of the final 14 points to secure the 88-74 win.
"We're happy we got the dub, but we know there's a lot we need to improve on," Ankra said. "We know where we want to get to, and that's a championship in March."
Scott recorded a strong stat line with 18 points on four-of-six shooting from three, eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Starters Dakelle Brooks and Sam Chisholm each reached double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Cape Breton's Mitchell Mersereau recorded the game's only double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds on three-of-tree shooting from beyond the arc. Tyson Cato scored 12 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double, while Jason Callaghan finished 13 points.
The two teams square off again Saturday at 4 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan