Aaron Martin/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – Talk about a statement game.
Both among a clear top tier of teams in the Canada West, the UBC Thunderbirds women's basketball team (9-2) downed the Alberta Pandas (11-2) 71-64 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at War Memorial Gym.
"It was nice to get back home, definitely," said UBC head coach Deb Huband. "This was a strong team effort – we were able to defend well, we got some good looks from three, and we got some strong performances. We've got great respect for Alberta, we've had some real battles with them over the years, but what we need to do is take care of what we need to do. For the most part, we did tonight."
Conference scoring leader Madison Penn paced the 'Birds with 19 points, going a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Manitoban rookie forward Keylyn Filewich was dominant down low, posting career highs of 16 points and 13 boards for her first of many double-doubles as a part of the Blue and Gold. Shilpa Khanna also hit double-digits in scoring for the T-Birds, as the senior guard knocked down three key triples en route to an 11-point performance.
Maddie Rogers paced the Alberta offence with 25 points and six assists. Aimee Wilson chipped in with 10 for the visitors. Elle Hendershot had a team-high nine rebounds.
"Keylyn's got a lot of potential, and the more aggressive she becomes in the paint, the more productive she's going to be," assessed Huband. "You got a sense of the kind of player she has the talent to be in this league."
The 'Birds were absolutely on point from beyond the arc in the first half. Collectively hitting 5-of-7 from distance, UBC got two apiece from Penn and freshman guard Ali Norris, alongside one from Khanna. Inside, the T-Birds found a good balance, with four forwards, including Filewich, getting on the scoresheet.
Defensively, the 'Birds did well to shut down Alberta's offensive attack outside of senior guard Rogers. Who came in averaging 15.3 points-per-game, picked up 12 in the first half. Apart from Rogers, the 'Birds held the Pandas to just 5-of-18 shooting from the field in the half, as UBC took a 36-29 lead into the break.
The third frame saw the Pandas pull back, opening up the quarter on a 12-5 run to even it up at 41-41 with two minutes to go. The two sides would go back-and-forth for the rest of the stanza, even at 45-45 heading into the final quarter.
The two teams opened up a track meet in the final frame, with both coming up with clutch shot after clutch shot. With just five minutes remaining, Filewich got the 'Birds on top 60-58 with a brilliant layup in traffic. Penn followed that up with a nifty layup of her own to put the home side up by four, and the 'Birds never again trailed.
Penn added five points to her total in the game's final two minutes, including a deep three to put the game out of reach.
The 'Birds and Pandas will rematch this Saturday, January 14, with tip-off set for 5 p.m. in War Memorial Gym.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds