The University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves fell behind 10-0 to the UBC Thunderbirds early in the first quarter, but that seemed to wake up the gritty TWolves. A 19-8 run to end the quarter, gave UNBC the lead after the opening stanza, and they wouldn’t relinquish the advantage the rest of the way, topping the T-Birds 77-60.
Playing an afternoon matinee matchup at War Memorial, the Timberwolves fell behind early as Maddison Penn asserted herself in the early going. Foul trouble for Madison Landry and Maria Mongomo could have spelled disaster for Sergey Shchepotkin’s squad, but they were able to chip away. At the end of the quarter, UNBC
“We just needed to calm down and play our game,” said Shakirova, of the late run. “It gave us confidence to keep pushing, and we kept at it. We had been playing their game, so Sergey wanted us to focus on what we do well.”
The second quarter belonged to the Timberwolves, as they were able to slow a potent Thunderbirds attack. Landry was able to get to the rim on a number of occasions, and it was the Prince George native beating the buzzer from 35 feet out to give UNBC the 35-27 lead at halftime.
“We just needed to keep shooting,” said UNBC’s Julia Gallant. “It was impotant to keep that flow. If shots aren’t falling for one player, we need to have the next person step up, keep the energy and keep shooting.”
The third frame was more of the visitors, with Julia Gallant, Abby Gibb, and Mongomo all making three-pointers to extend the lead. The Thunderbirds found it difficult to penetrate the TWolves defense, as they were held to just 13 points in the quarter. With the seconds ticking down, the Timberwolves made another buzzer-beating triple, this time from Gallant.
“It feels great to see those go in,” said Shakirova. “It gives you energy. You just realize it is your day, and takes the air out of their sails. They don’t always go in, so to have it happen twice was great.”
The Thunderbirds did start the final quarter with a flurry, chipping away by getting into the paint. Jessica Hanson was able to cut into the lane for easy baskets early on, but it was the shots from long-range that re-established the TWolves’ lead. Alina Shakirova made three shots from beyond the arc, and the Timberwolves’ work on the offensive glass allowed them second-chance opportunities. When the final buzzer sounded, UNBC was victorious 77-60, improving to 10-7 on the season.
“We knew they would come out with energy. They’re a really good team, so we had to weather that storm,” said the Moscow native. “It was good to see shots fall for us, and we we able to hold on.”
Landry led the TWolves with 19 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Shakirova came off the bench to add 16 points and seven rebounds. Maria Mongomo tallied 15 points and six boards, while Vasiliki Louka had a 12 point, 13 rebound double-double. Gallant had 8 points off the bench, while Abby Gibb went for 7 points and three steals.
“We worked as a team today. We focused on our own jobs, and worked for the good of the team,” said Gallant. “We scouted them, and they’re a really good team. So we just wanted to stick to what we do best.”
Penn paced the T-Birds with 15 points and 14 rebounds, while Keylyn Filewich had 12 points. Madison Legault chipped in with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
“When we lost in playoffs to them in 2016, we immediately wanted to prove we could be competitive,” said Shakirova. “UBC is really strong, but we know we are good, as well.”
With the victory, UNBC clinches a third consecutive Canada West playoff berth, while both the Timberwolves and T-Birds both still have an opportunity to host a first round postseason game. The two teams will clash again on Saturday evening, 5 PM in Vancouver, B.C.
“This has been a goal since preseason. We wanted to be ready for these opportunities,” said Julia Gallant. “We don’t want to get complacent at all. We know the better we play, the more success we can have. Hopefully this propels us to a longer journey.”
“It feels great for our program. It is getting better and better, and people across the country are starting to learn who are,” said Shakirova. “But, we want to take a big step further than last year. Our goal is not just to make playoffs, but to go further.”