The Pandas basketball team remained undefeated this past weekend thanks to a pair of decisive wins over the Winnipeg Wesmen.
The Pandas won 70-52 on Friday night, then topped their performance on Saturday, notching an even more commanding 84-63 win.
The first game started off tightly contested however, as the Wesmen actually carried a slim 31-30 lead into the half, but the Pandas came out firing in the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 23-8 to ultimately put the game out of reach.
Head coach Scott Edwards said his team took a little while to find their stride in the first game.
“(Winnipeg) play a unique style that’s different than most teams in our league, and I think it took us a while to get comfortable,” Edwards said.
“The big thing we talked about at half time was taking care of the ball and not turning it over.”
Fifth year guard Jessilyn Fairbanks was key to the Pandas pulling away in the third quarter, scoring eight of her game high 19 points in an 18-2 run to open the quarter. She also helped out on the glass, pulling down eight boards. Fellow fifth year Megan Wickstrom added 12 points, while Renee Byrne and Maddie Rogers chipped in 11 points each in the win.
It was a similar story in the second game of the weekend, with the game being tied at 35-35 going into the third quarter, only to see the Pandas break it open once more, this time outscoring the Wesmen 28-15 in the quarter.
“Both games ended up ultimately looking the same, big second halves by us that led to the two wins,” Edwards said.
This time, it was Megan Wickstrom leading the charge for the Pandas, pouring in 19 points, while also adding four rebounds. Renee Byrne added 13 points, while Maddie Rogers stuffed the stat sheet, scoring nine points, dishing out six assists, and also racking up four steals.
Edwards said that his team showed a lot of character by being able to kick things up a notch in the second half of both games.
“It speaks to the leadership of the older athletes that have been through a lot games,” Edwards said.
“They understand that it’s the ebb and flow of the sport, and they just stay with the plan.”
These new leaders have stepped up so far for the Pandas this year, as they were a team that had five fifth year players depart last year. Players like Wickstrom, Fairbanks, and Byrne — who are the team’s only fifth year players — have shown that they can lead with their play so far this season.
Edwards spoke about his team’s new leadership core.
“They’ve been in a lot of big games, so it was their turn to step up and really take the lead on this team,” Edwards said.
“It’s been fun watching them evolve as leaders this year.”
The Pandas will now travel to Winnipeg this upcoming week to take on the province’s other team, the Manitoba Bisons. They’ve been the victims of a tough start this year, losing all four of their games so far, and suffering 24-point and 29-point losses against the Calgary Dinos last weekend.
Despite the Bisons’ status as basement dwellers in Canada West, the Pandas won’t look past these games to the next week.
“(They’re) well coached, and a scrappy team that’s going to come play hard, especially at home,” Edwards said.
“We’ve got to get on the road, and take those couple of days to focus on who we are, and take care of our business.”
The Pandas will look to keep their undefeated season alive when the clash with the Bisons this upcoming Friday and Saturday.