Charlottetown, PE - It wasn't the way Panthers head coach Tim Kendrick drew it up, but he'll take it nonetheless. The Panthers put themselves in a hole early, but slowly climbed their way out as they overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat the StFX X-Men 93-89 Saturday night.
"We weren't happy at halftime," Kendrick said. "But our guys understood what needed to be done."
Down 10 at halftime, the Panthers decided enough was enough as they outscored their opponent 55-41 in the second half to salvage the win. All-Canadian Tyler Scott led the way with 35 points, 18 of which came in the final two quarters.
"Most teams in that situation fall, but we have a no quit mentality," Scott said. "Our confidence is through the roof right now."
Both teams traded baskets to begin the game, but confusion on the defensive end led to a wide open three-pointer for Mark Fernandes, giving StFX an early 19-16 edge.
First-year X-Man Azaro Roker put his stamp on the game with a thunderous put-back dunk, followed by two blocked shots late in the quarter, helping StFX to a 25-21 advantage.
Scott led the Panthers with 10 first-quarter points, but the X-Men countered with eight different scorers in the opening frame, none scoring more than four.
StFX opened the second on a defensive tear, turning the Panthers over on multiple occasions as they extended their lead 33-26, forcing UPEI to call a timeout.
With Scott on the bench the Panthers struggled to navigate through the X-Men's full-court press, limiting UPEI to just 31.3 per cent shooting in the quarter while pushing their lead to 42-26.
But the Panthers settled down when their star player returned to the floor. Down 16, the home squad clawed their way back with back-to-back triples from Amin Suleman, cutting the deficit to a manageable 10 points by halftime where StFX led 48-38.
Kevin Bercy scored nine in the quarter to lead StFX, while teammate Akil Charles chipped in with eight to back the star forward. Bercy finished with a monster double-double, scoring 23 points and collecting 18 rebounds in the loss.
The Panthers opened the third on a 9-2 run, capped off by a signature Scott triple that cut the deficit to 50-47. But the X-Men steadied the ship, responding with a 7-2 run of their own to make it 57-49.
UPEI continued their strong third-quarter play, relentlessly chipping away at StFX's lead. Midway through the quarter, the Panthers narrowed the gap to just six. Unforced turnovers temporarily stalled UPEI's comeback as the X-Men led 70-64 with a quarter remaining.
Summerside native Mark Matheson kick started the Panthers' offence with five consecutive points to begin the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to 70-67. Shortly after, backup point guard Shavon Gayle gave UPEI their first lead since the first quarter with a layup to make it 76-74.
Supported by a full house of roaring fans, the Panthers didn't look back as Matheson's 10 fourth-quarter points and Scott's nine led them to the thrilling come-from-behind victory.
The Panthers (1-1) take on reigning MVP Javon Masters and the UNB Varsity Reds (0-1) on Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. in Fredericton.
The X-Men will play their home opener on Saturday, November 12th when the Memorial Sea-Hawks will be in Antigonish for an 8:00 pm game.
Courtesy Thomas Becker, UPEI Sports Information