VANCOUVER – The final U SPORTS Canada West regular season home game for four UBC women's basketball players was a triumphant one as the Thunderbirds defeated the Northern BC Timberwolves 76-72 Saturday at War Memorial Gym in Vancouver.
"It was a nice weekend to get two wins with senior night and Courtside," said UBC head coach Deb Huband. "We need to keep improving as we head into the playoffs."
A second-half surge allowed UBC to fight off a valiant UNBC squad and improve to 14-4. The Thunderbirds outscored UNBC (6-12) 40-28 in the second half to complete the weekend sweep.
"It was a very important win," said forward Andrea Strujic, one of the four graduating UBC seniors. "We just want to keep on climbing all the way to nationals. We need to just continue to get better."
Strujic, along with forwards Kara Spotton and Susan Thompson, and guard Cherub Lum were joined by their families in a post-game ceremony honouring their contributions to UBC women's basketball.
"It's exciting to be together with these people," said Spotton. "We want to close this season out strong."
"It's kind of bittersweet as all of us will be going in different directions," said Lum. "But we had such a great time together. It's been special."
The players were presented with flowers, photographs and other gifts, and praised for their athletic, volunteer and academic achievements during their time as Thunderbirds.
"Some of us have been together the whole five years – it's kind of a long time, but it goes by so fast," remarked Thompson.
UBC dominated most of the fourth quarter with the hosts outscoring UNBC 17-4 over the first six and a half minutes. Over that span, the offence for the T-Birds came from a variety of sources. Krysten Lindquist had four points, while Shilpa Khanna, Strujic and Ali Norris had three each. Sammy Baumgartner and Jessica Hanson also contributed field goals.
Still, the game was not over as Vasiliki Louka scored 10 of her game-high 30 points as part of a game-ending UNBC 15-6 run. However, the Timberwolves ran out of time, falling by four. Louka also had eight rebounds and five steals. She was also perfect on all 10 free throw opportunities.
UBC had a 17-9 edge in the third quarter to tie the game at 53-53 going into the final period of regulation. Spotton, Penn and Hanson all made layups as the T-Birds scored the first six points of the third. Back-to-back Strujic baskets, and a three from Khanna pushed UBC ahead 49-46 with three and a half minutes to go.
The visitors led for all but half a minute in the first half, taking a 44-36 advantage into the mid-game break.
Spotton's jump shot with six minutes remaining in the second quarter trimmed the Timberwolves' lead to a single possession at 27-24, but UNBC remained steady and rebuilt a double-digit difference thanks to Maria Mongomo layup with just over a minute to go to make it 41-31.
The T-Wolves started strong, opening the game on a 16-6 run that was capped off by Louka's jump shot halfway through the first quarter. Louka and Mongomo – with a pair of three-pointers – provided six points each in the run. Triples by Khanna and Maddison Penn late in the period helped UBC cut its deficit to 23-18 at the end of the first.
Four Thunderbirds reached double digits in points, with Strujic leading the way with 15 and seven rebounds, both team highs. Hanson scored 13, Khanna 11, and Spotton 10.
Mongomo was the other offensive star for UNBC as she posted 21 points.
The 2016-17 Canada West regular season wraps up next weekend, with UBC travelling to Langley to face Trinity Western on Friday and Saturday. Both games will tip off at 5 p.m. UNBC will host Saskatchewan in Prince George. Friday's contest is slated for a 6 p.m. tip off, and while Saturday's game will go at 5 p.m.
- with files from Len Catling/UBC Thunderbirds