Charlottetown, PEI - Behind another strong defensive effort and a career night from Aiden Rainford, the UPEI Panthers secured a weekend sweep with a 62-51 win over the STFX X-Women.
The Panthers' victory was marked by their tenacious defence in the second half, as they held the X-Women (0-4) to just 16 points, a feat that proved crucial in overcoming a small halftime deficit and sealing the win.
Rainford emerged as the shining star once again, delivering a stellar performance in what can be described as her best game as a Panther. The veteran forward scored 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but her contributions extended beyond scoring, as she also grabbed 18 rebounds, swatted away three shots, dished out two assists, and snagged a steal.
Devon Lawlor, another key player for the Panthers (3-1), continued her hot shooting streak in Saturday night's game. Lawlor showcased her accuracy from beyond the arc, connecting on 3-of-5 three-pointers. She finished with 17 points, four rebounds, and a pair of steals.
Both teams had extended scoring runs to start the game with UPEI striking first with a 7-0 run before STFX countered with nine straight points to take the lead.
The back-and-forth jockeying continued throughout the quarter, but it was the Panthers who carried a slim 19-18 advantage after the first 10 minutes. Rainford was a force inside, leading the way with eight points in the quarter.
After both offences stalled to begin the second, UPEI found a bit of rhythm, reeling off four straight points to extend the lead to 27-22. However, STFX responded with nine of their own to go in front 31-27. Lauren Neeve started it with a three-pointer before the X-Women turned back-to-back steals into easy layups.
STFX closed the quarter strong, limiting UPEI to just two points over the final 6:18 to take a 35-29 lead at halftime. Rainford led all scorers with 12 points, while Upham had seven for the X-Women.
UPEI came out of the break with their signature defensive intensity which stifled the X-Women, who were held scoreless for the first 6:40 of the second half.
Midway through the third quarter, Samantha Zoffranieri stole the ball in the backcourt and drove hard to the basket for an and-one to give UPEI its first lead since the 5:16 mark of the second quarter. After 30 minutes of action, UPEI led 46-43.
Rainford and Lawlor took over in the fourth quarter, where the Panthers outscored their opponent 16-8. The two stars of the night combined to score all but two of those points, as they picked apart the defence with perimeter shooting and sheer strength in the painted area.
The Panthers look to capture their third consecutive win next Friday when they take on the UNB Reds on the road, while the X-Women travel to Newfoundland for a two-game set against the Memorial Sea-Hawks.
Recap courtesy Thomas Becker, UPEI Athletics