Joey Haywood and the Saint Mary’s Huskies know better than to take the P.E.I. Panthers lightly.

The third-seeded Huskies, who are chasing their second Atlantic University Sport men’s basketball title in three years this weekend in Sydney, open the Final 6 on Friday with a quarter-final matchup against the sixth-seeded Panthers.

The wound is still fresh from last year’s quarter-final upset loss to the Panthers.

“It was a bad feeling,” said Haywood, the Huskies’ starting point guard who earned his second straight AUS first-team all-star selection yesterday.

“Everyone on our team knows we don’t want to feel like that again, going home right after the first round. It was terrible.”

Haywood will be a big key if the Huskies are to have success. The six-foot-one Vancouver native is coming off an outstanding sophomore season that saw him win his second straight scoring title. He averaged 24.4 points per game and posted the highest AUS single-season point total in more than a decade.

Nicknamed King Handles, the 25-year-old has always been known for his ball-handling ability. But he spent the summer working on his jump-shot and it paid off.

He led the AUS with a .484 three-point average and shot .578 from two-point range — astonishing numbers for a guard and a significant improvement from his rookie campaign.

“A lot of guys were going to come at me defensively (after a big rookie year),” Haywood said. “People think I want to attack all the time … But when I shoot the ball more, they play up on me more, and I can go right by them. So I have more options now.”

The core of the Huskies is the same as it was last year, with senior first-team all-star Mark McLaughlin joining Haywood in the backcourt and fifth-year forward Ikeobi Uchegbu in the paint.

Although the Huskies went 14-6 and were unable to keep pace with the 18-2 Cape Breton Capers and St. Francis Xavier X-Men, they’ve won five of their past six and took down the X-Men 87-79 in Antigonish last weekend.

“I’m confident, coach is confident and everyone’s confident we can take the AUS title right now,” said Haywood.

Final 6 sked

Schedule for the Atlantic University Sport Final 6 men’s basketball championship this weekend in Sydney:

• Friday - Quarter-finals: (4) Dalhousie vs. (5) Acadia, 6 p.m; (3) Saint Mary’s vs. (6) P.E.I., 8:15 p.m.

• Saturday - Semifinals: (1) Cape Breton vs. lowest remaining seed, 6 p.m.; (2) St. F.X. vs. highest remaining seed, 8:15 p.m.

• Sunday - Final: Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.

Latest From ...