The University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves knew a win would greatly improve their Canada West playoff aspirations, and they needed overtime to get it, edging the University of Fraser Valley 97-93 in overtime on Friday, January 26th.
Vova Pluzhnikov scored nine of his 26 points in the extra frame, as the Timberwolves improved their record to 9-10 with just one game left on their regular season schedule.
The first half was back-and-forth, with the Timberwolves 26-19 opening quarter being erased by a 28-19 second quarter for the Cascades.
With UNBC holding a five-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter, the Cascades turned to fourth-year guard Andrew Morris. Scoring in a variety of ways, he poured in 14 of UFV's 20 in the quarter.
"I'm just trying to win," he said postgame. That's all I am trying to do. At the end of the day, if I score zero, or score whatever I had today, I want to win. This is bittersweet, but we have another chance at them tomorrow."
Jovan Leamy had a chance for the win, but he 18-foot jumper in the dying seconds rimmed out to send the game to overtime.
That's where Pluzhnikov took over, thrilling the 1500 fans in attendance with a trio of slashing layups to give the home side the advantage.
"I was just trying to be aggressive all game," said Pluzhnikov. "Right from the beginning, I was trying to create for my teammates and for myself, and it worked pretty well."
James Agyeman would seal the thrilling victory with a pair of free-throws, giving him 18 points on the day, and the Timberwolves an enormous victory.
"I think the difference is conditioning. We put so much effort in, and we run a lot," said Pluzhnikov after the game. "In the last five minutes and in overtime, we just had more energy."
With the win, the TWolves improve to 9-10 on the year, while the Cascades' playoff hopes evaporate, with their record at 5-12.
"UNBC has a really good team this year, probably the best they've had in a few years," said Morris. "They had some veteran leadership step up, and that's the way the ball bounces sometimes."
Along with Pluzhnikov's 26 and Agyeman's 18, Jovan Leamy chipped in with 18 points of his own, while Vaggelis Loukas had 7 points and 13 rebounds.
Morris paced the Cascades with 35 points on 13-for-19 shooting. Parmvir Bains added 14 points, while Matt Cooley, Sukhman Sandhu, and Mark Johnson all hit double figures.
The teams clash again on Saturday night at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.
"They're going to come out tomorrow and play hard," said Pluzhnikov. "They're going to hit us with their best basketball, because they have nothing to lose."