PEI

UPEI women's basketball team at nationals for the first time in 22 years

The UPEI women’s basketball team is advancing to the semifinals of the U Sport Final 8 Championships in Ottawa after qualifying for nationals for the first time in 22 years.

‘It’s been an amazing week’

The women's UPEI Panthers basketball team secured their spot in the U Sport Final 8 after winning the AUS championships on Sunday in Halifax. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The UPEI women's basketball team is advancing to the semifinals of the U Sport Final 8 Championships in Ottawa after qualifying for nationals for the first time in 22 years.

The Panthers secured their spot after winning the Atlantic University Sport championships last weekend in Halifax.

"It's been an amazing week for our women's basketball program," said Ron Annear, varsity sport director with UPEI. 

"Last night was a very exciting moment in our history, as Jenna Mae Ellsworth was selected as a First-Team All-Canadian, but even bigger and more historic, she was selected as the U Sports Player of the Year, and that's the first time ever for our UPEI basketball program."

Ellsworth, a fourth-year science student, plays guard for the panthers and hails from Charlottetown. 

'Always perseveres'

On top of her team's accomplishments, so far this year Ellsworth has been named AUS First-Team All-Star, AUS Defensive Player of the Year, AUS Most Valuable Player, and now First-Team All-Canadian and U Sports Player of the Year.

Ellsworth with parents Paul and Tracy after winning the AUS Championships. (Jackie Doran-MacLeod)

U Sport also recently named her to a list of their Top 100 Women's Basketball Players of the Century.

"What makes her that is her inner drive. She's very goal driven. She never settles. When she achieves something she looks ahead to see what else can I achieve and how can I do it," said mother Tracy Ellsworth, herself a former head coach of the UPEI women's basketball team. 

"She always perseveres. She's probably one of the hardest-working kids I know."

Fans of the team held their own viewing party at UPEI today to cheer on the women as they played Ryerson.

Going into the final eight, Ryerson was ranked third and UPEI was seen as the underdog.

They beat Ryerson 75 to 70 after a comeback in the fourth quarter.

Advancing to semis

Ellsworth scored 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Reese Baxendale added 19 points and Lauren Rainford had 18 for the Panthers.

"We didn't give up one minute there," Ellsworth said following the win. "We were down in the third and we just kept battling."

Ellsworth was also named player of the game.

"She's been working all summer," said Kamari Scott, who was one of many to gather at UPEI to watch the game today from the campus pub. 

"She's humble and she just works hard," said Scott, who also plays for the men's team.

With today's win, UPEI advances to the semifinals and are one step closer to a potential national championship.

UPEI will play Brock in the semis on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Brian Higgins and The Canadian Press

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