Rich Abney, UNBC Athletics
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - The University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves Men's basketball team has played this game before. Last season, they traveled to enemy territory as the 11th-seed team in Canada West, and won a tough road game in the Canada West playoffs, topping the Winnipeg Wesmen. This year, they looked for a repeat of that performance, and it looked like history would repeat itself through the first half of the game. However, a big second-half by the University of Fraser Valley Cascades helped the higher-seeded Cascades to a 67-59 victory.
The TWolves came out firing in the first quarter, hopping out to an early 8-2 lead. Despite being the significantly smaller team, UNBC was able to pressure the Cascades, and now allow the home team to find an offensive rhythm. Timberwolves leading scorer JV Leamy led UNBC with six points, as they led 17-10 after ten minutes.
In the second stanza, the Timberwolves continued to clamp down defensively. Parm Bains, the Cascades' leading scorer, was able to find himself open very rarely, which was clearly part of the UNBC approach. Jovan Leamy was able to get to the hoop, and Prince George product Tyrell Laing continued to shoot the ball well, as the TWolves held a 38-26 lead at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to the Cascades as they worked to cut into the deficit. They did just that, thanks to some big shots from Vick Toor, and Sukhman Sandhu. With under two minutes to go, UFV took their first lead of the game, delighting the home crowd. At the end of the third frame, UNBC held a slim 49-48 advantage.
"They came out with a lot of energy, and beat us to a lot of the fifty-fifty stuff, "said UNBC coach Todd Jordan. "We got into some stretches where the ball stuck in our hands and didn't move, and we lost our momentum. We were fighting uphill the rest of the way."
In the fourth quarter, the Cascades had an answer for everything the TWolves threw at them. Their length and athleticism was enough to keep UNBC off the glass, while Sukhjot Bains, Andrew Morris and Sandhu were able to convert at the other end. In the final minute, with the UFV lead at five, Bains was able to twirl his way into the paint, before finding Sandhu who iced it with a three-point dagger.
"Size was a huge factor. We got up huge on the offensive glass on a number of possessions," said Jordan. "Their length at the rim definitely causes us trouble. We would get guys on our hips, but they would stay on us until their bigs could contest inside. We didn't finish much inside."
Sukhman Sandhu was the leading scorer for the Cascades, notching 18 points on four three-pointers. Parm bains added 16 points, while Andrew Morris had 10 points. Leamy was the high-scorer for the Timberwolves with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Tyrell Laing went four-for-four from three-point range, good for 13 points. Vova Pluzhnikov chipped in with 12 points, while Vaggelis Loukas had 12 rebounds.
With the win, the Cascades will advance in the Canada West playoff bracket, while this signifies the end of the road for the Timberwolves. It marks the final career game for graduating seniors Leamy, James Agyeman, Loukas, and Austin Chandler.
"This is the first time in our history we have consecutively made playoffs, which is big for our program," said Jordan postgame. "We will miss our senior guys who worked really hard. They have all had important roles for our program. I am proud of our guys."