PRINCE GEORGE – The University of Northern British Columbia’s women’s basketball team survived a big fourth-quarter push by the Mount Royal Cougars and held on for a 64-55 win Saturday night at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.
Trailing the Timberwolves 48-35 after three quarters, the Cougars came out fast early in the fourth quarter, scoring the first six points to narrow the Timberwolves’ lead to just seven. Back-to-back baskets by UNBC freshman Madison Landry restored the lead, but an 8-0 MRU run made it a 57-52 game with three minutes remaining. MRU’s Angela Driscoll was instrumental in the comeback, notching nine points in the quarter. However, the T-Wolves would bend but not break, holding on to take the victory.
Landry finished with a game-high 16 points. Her UNBC teammate Vasiliki Louka grabbed 13 rebounds.
Driscoll put up 14 points for the Cougars and dished out three assists. Becky Nash collected 14 rebounds.
The physicality from the previous night didn’t take long to resume between the two teams, as the Timberwolves and Cougars didn’t give an inch early on. Scoring was tough to come by, but UNBC took a late lead on a pair of three-pointers from fifth-year guard Stacey Graham. The Timberwolves held a 14-6 lead after 10 minutes.
MRU coach Nathan McKibbon said his team was expecting the physicality from the Timberwolves.
“I expected our team to come out and answer the bell,” he said. “We have routinely been better in the second game all year. Some of it was us getting back to the way we play. Some of it was certain individuals taking yesterday to heart.”
In the second quarter, Louka, a UNBC post player, went down with an apparent knee injury. Already without fellow post Preety Nijjar, coach Sergey Shchepotkin would have to go with a small lineup much of the half. Emily Aase was an impact player, guarding Cougars leading scorer, Nash, while also chipping in seven points and four rebounds. Mount Royal outscored UNBC 23-17 in the quarter, making it 31-29 UNBC at half.
It was Aase’s first start of the season.
"I thought it was really important, especially with Preety not being here,” she said of her first big assignment. “I just went out there to play for the team, play for Coach, and play for myself.”
In the third quarter, the Timberwolves’ commitment to defence led to offensive output. UNBC went on a 15-0 run late in the third, and were able to capitalize on fast-break opportunities. That stretch pushed the advantage to 48-35 with one quarter to play. Maria Mongomo had eight points and three rebounds in seven minutes.
“We did lose it for a bit out there, but we managed to bring it back,” said Aase. “We managed to get back into our offence, and got some quick points there.
“They were here to get a win this weekend. We focused on defence. Nash is a really strong player, so we matched that up and just made sure she didn’t get the ball.
McKibbon gave credit to the Timberwolves’ effort as the difference between winning and losing.
“(It was turnovers and offensive rebounds,” he said. “Maria Mongomo is just fantastic at following her shots, and Louka has made a huge improvement over what she was last year. It makes UNBC really tough to handle, with their length and physicality.”
With the two-game sweep, UNBC improves to 5-9 on the year, while Mount Royal slips to 2-10. The Timberwolves have a bye weekend on Jan. 20-21 and will resume play on Jan. 27-28 against the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. The Cougars will return to Calgary to host the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Jan. 20-21.