Panthers deliver in key moments in close 89-84 win over X-Men

Photo credit Janessa Hogan
Photo credit Janessa Hogan

Charlottetown, PEI - It had the makings of a thriller, and Friday night's tilt between the conference's two undefeated teams lived up to the hype. Both the UPEI Panthers (5-0) and the STFX X-Men (4-1) went back and forth at each other all night with the Panthers prevailing in the end 89-84.

When the team needed him the most, Elijah Miller delivered in the final quarter where he scored UPEI's first nine points and 15 overall in the frame. He finished with a career-high 32 points (16-of-16 from the free throw line), with eight rebounds and six assists.

Isaiah Ankra shot an efficient 6-of-11 from the field and finished with 23 points, while Kamari Scott delivered some clutch moments leading to 16 points.

Three X-Men also finished in double figures including Dondre Reddick with 22 points, David Muenkat with 11 points and nine rebounds, and Deon Ejim with 10 points and nine rebounds.

No team had a lead larger than five in the opening quarter, as they were locked up at 23 apiece after 10 minutes of action. Miller and Scott combined for 15 points, while Reddick had eight the other way.

Muenkat followed an Avan Nava elbow three with a layup for the X-Men, who took an early second-quarter lead. Their defence was smothering throughout the frame, where they held UPEI without a field goal for over five minutes to extend their lead to 36-26.

Struggling to score, the Panthers strategy was to attack the rim and draw fouls. It worked, as eight of their next 10 points came from the charity stripe, which helped them trim the deficit to 43-38 before the break. Overall, UPEI made 34 out of their 44 free throws, while STFX was limited to just 11 on 12 attempts.

After Muenkat picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, UPEI went on a mini 4-0 run capped off by an Ankra three-pointer to tie the game at 49. Scott then drained a corner jumper to give them their first lead since the first quarter 52-51.

STFX retook the lead moments later, but Sam Chisholm returned the favour with four straight points to reclaim a 60-59 advantage.

With the game hanging in balance, Miller went off in the fourth quarter where he scored nine straight points to push the lead to 74-69. After a STFX timeout, UPEI scored seven straight on an Ankra three, a Surendran putback and two free throws from Miller to make it 81-69.

STFX made one last push and trimmed the deficit to 83-82 behind a 13-2 run, but Miller came up clutch again, finding Ankra for the for the easy layup before drawing another foul where he put away both free throws to pad the slim lead.

The X-Men had one last chance to tie the game, but Antoine Vernon couldn't connect on the triple, as his team fell 89-84.

The two teams battle it out again Saturday afternoon with a tipoff set for 4 p.m.


Recap courtesy Thomas Becker, UPEI Athletics