(FREDERICTON, NB) No Javon Masters, no problem.
Five players scored in double figures as the UNB Varsity Reds rallied to beat the Acadia Axemen 84-74 on Saturday night.
Erik Nissen(Quispamsis, NB) scored a game-high 23 points for the Axemen, while Kyle Arseneault(Fredericton, NB) had 12.
The two teams were locked in a close fight for most of the game.
UNB raced out to a 23-14 lead in the first quarter, but Acadia fought back to trail by one at the half, 39-38.
The Axemen went on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter, but UNB held a 59-57 edge going into the fourth.
With Acadia threatening to pull even mid-way through the fourth, the Varsity Reds rallied.
Kendall hit four key free throws in the final 3:30, and Henry knocked down two three point shots with less than 2:30 to play.
"Effort is all it took and I thought we brought it," said Kendall. "It was a good character win for us, pull through, keep playing… and it worked out for us."
Masters, UNB's on-court leader and the reigning Atlantic University Sport MVP, was a scratch after suffering an ankle injury in Friday's loss to Saint Mary's.
"We needed a lot of guys to step up and prove to everyone that we can get things done if Javon's not in the line-up," said Kendall. "It was a huge effort. We knew what it took, and we knew we could win this game."
"Maybe they took their foot of the gas, saying there's no Javon and we're going to come in and put it on us, but we have some pretty determined, pretty proud guys," said Varsity Reds head coach Brent Baker.
He praised his team for responding well to Masters' absence.
He singled out Henry, a veteran, playing his fifth year of eligibility.
"Kaleefah Henry hasn't been playing great," said Baker. "But he came in and his last five minutes were probably the best five minutes he's had this year."
Nissen, unhappy with the loss, believes Acadia had a chance to win.
"That team was missing one of their better players and we still didn't finish them off when we should've," said Nissen. "It just speaks to where we're at and where we need to be."
"I think we beat ourselves a lot, honestly," said the fourth year forward. "We made a couple of decisions down the stretch that really threw us and it's hard to come back when you beat yourself."
While UNB was without Javon Masters, their depth was a factor.
The Varsity Reds bench outscored Acadia's 53-13.
"Our guys spread the ball, moved the ball, had 25 assists… and five guys in double figures, so I was happy with the team effort," said Coach Baker.
UNB is now 9-5 on the season and tied for first in the AUS standings, with Saint Mary's.
The Axemen are 6-7.
Next up for Acadia, home games against Cape Breton, on Friday and Saturday.
The Varsity Reds go on the road to face UPEI Friday and Saturday.