Rich Abney, UNBC Athletics
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. -
The University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves and Thompson Rivers WolfPack teams can't get much closer. In preseason, the two teams played to triple overtime. Last night, the Timberwolves came from behind in the fourth quarter to clinch a hard-fought win. Tonight, the Timberwolves and WolfPack again were tied at the end of regulation, before TRU pulled out an 82-78, Saturday,January 5th at the Charles Jago Northern Sports Centre.
The Wolfpack came out firing in the opening quarter, with Enrico Nuno and Anton Bilous combining for four first quarter three-pointers, helping establish a 20-11 lead at the end of the first frame.
The Timberwolves began to fight back throughout the second quarter, highlighted by a pair of athletic drives by Vova Pluzhnikov that found their mark. A buzzer-beating Tyrell Laing three-pointer gave UNBC a 37-35 lead at half.
Both teams continued to play each other tightly, trading the lead throughout the third. Jovan Leamy was able to convert some tough opportunities in the paint, while TRU's Anton Bilous showed his savvy a number of times, creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. The Timberwolves went in to the final frame with a 52-50 lead over their Canada West rivals.
"It was so hard to get on a run," said Pluzhnikov. "We have to find that consistency. We have to get a stop, move on, and stay mentally strong against them."
The Wolfpack began the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run, capped off by an Anton Bilous jumper. However, the Timberwolves rallied, and after a late Vova Pluzhnikov three pointer, they found themselves within two points of the Wolfpack with just 30 seconds remaining. After a pair of missed free throws from Bilous, the Timberwolves' Jovan Leamy converted a putback to knot the score at 70-70 with less two seconds left, forcing the game to overtime.
"You guys get such a great crowd here. It was distracting," said Bilous. "I choked a little bit, but I have to get back in the gym and work on those I guess."
A thrilling overtime period came down to the final seconds, and was eventually iced by the Wolfpack's Tyus De Vries, who sunk two free throws to put the Wolfpack up four, and eventually win the game 82-78.
"That was a great game. Hats off to UNBC," said Bilous. "Yesterday we came up short, and today we were lucky enough to get to overtime. They missed some pretty good looks. On to the next one for us. It is always fun to play UNBC. A bit of a friendship and rivalry"
Bilous, who came off the bench to score 26 points and add 6 rebounds, led the Wolfpack. He finished 10-18 from the field, including 3-6 from beyond the arc. Enrico Nuno added 16 points, while Mike Rouault contributed 15 points.
"I was staying the course, playing within our system," said Bilous postgame. "My teammates were able to get me some good looks and I was able to knock them down."
"He is a smart player. He knows his strengths and he knows his weaknesses," said Pluzhnikov, who was Bilous' teammate on the Ukraine National U16 and U18 teams. "He really knows how to read defenses, and he made some good plays down the stretch.
Jovan Leamy went for 20 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists for the Timberwolves. Vova Pluzhnikov was also big, adding 22 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Vaggelis Loukas chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds, while Austin Chandler had eight points and eight boards.
The WolfPack improve to 5-7, which was crucial in their quest for a Canada West playoff spot. The loss drops the Timberwolves to 7-5 on the season, heading into next weekend as they take on the University of Manitoba Bisons at the Charles Jago Northern Sports Centre.
"We have to work on our defense, and get louder," said Pluzhnikov. "We need to talk more, trust each other, and be better."