WBB: Team China tops T-Birds in international exhibition

WBB: Team China tops T-Birds in international exhibition

Stu Walters/UBC Thunderbirds

VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds dropped an 80-60 decision to the Chinese Under-18 women's national team in international exhibition play at War Memorial Gym Thursday night in what proved to be a very useful tune up game for both squads.

Team China used an organized and balanced attack that saw six players score double digits led by center Yuyan Li who had a team high 15 points while three teammates where just in arears with 13 points each. The T-Birds were led by veterans in third-year forward Keylyn Filewich scoring a game high 21 points while adding nine rebounds while fourth-year guard Maddison Penn added 16 points and four rebounds.

It was the T-Birds that enjoyed a quick start despite team China winning possession from the opening tip off, after a defensive stop by UBC, Penn pushed the ball up court and drew a foul. Penn would follow up by scoring the game's opening points in hitting both free throws. From there Filewich would take over for a spell from inside the lane en route to putting up a team high seven points in the quarter. Filewich made good on a three-point play converting on the hoop and the harm to increase the 'Birds lead to 9-2 ahead of Jess Hanson's jump shot increased the 'Birds early lead to 11-4. The visitors would then claw back on the strength of forward Kun Huang's team high eight points in the quarter to take their first lead of the night at 17-15. Minutes later as time expired it was guard Ming Zheng swishing her second three-pointer at the buzzer for a 22-18 lead after the opening frame.

The second quarter was a back and forth affair as Filewich continued to do the heavy lifting for the T-Birds draining eight more points while adding three rebounds to her total. Meanwhile guard Bingzhen Li was the go to option for team China with a team high six points and a 38-30 halftime lead.

The third quarter saw Penn set the pace with 10 points which included the lone three-pointer on the night for the T-Birds who also saw first-year guard Kate Johnson chip in with four of her eight points in the contest. Team China would choose to repeatedly feed the ball inside to center Yuyan Li who had her most productive period adding nine points to solidify a 20-point lead at 66-46 by the end of the third quarter.

China would continue with their spread-out offence from both inside and out heading into the final frame, still relying on their height as center Mingling Chen counted for seven of her 13 points on the evening. Team China was also a threat from beyond the arc all evening, shooting 33 percent from the three-point line after hitting 10 of 35 attempts. It was an efficient winning combination as the visitors maintained their 20-point advantage from the third quarter and an 80-60 victory at the final horn.

"I think it's a good start to the preseason, obviously being our first game of the year we all put in a really dedicated off season because we wanted to come back and be better," said Filewich. "Just leading into tonight we had a lot of expectations to get things started and I think there are a lot of expectations to get things started and I think there are a lot of positives leading into the rest of the preseason."

Filewich added that her teammates where key in helping her be so productive.

"I thought my teammates did a really good job finding me with the ball and my job is pretty easy after that just having to finish," continued Filewich. "Our guards had to bring it up under immense pressure, we had to find the wings everybody played a part it just so happens that I got to score those ones. It could have been anybody and it was a really good showing from everybody."

Long-time T-Birds head coach Deb Huband said it was a great experience to face top notch competition to begin the preseason.

"I think team China is outstanding they do a lot of things very well, very dynamic, good passing and as we saw good shooting team," added Huband. "I think they really spread the game and their ability to shoot the ball at all five positions on the floor. I think it was a really good for us to have the opportunity to play an international style and just compete and that's basically what we wanted to do this early in the season without a playbook or a ton of chemistry established."

Huband went on to say that the experience gained is invaluable for her squad.

"I think just in general team sports at University is the time of your life, a really important period based on relationship building and learning more about yourself. I think we use sport as a bit of a vehicle for that and I think this was a very memorable opportunity that the players won't forget."

Team China will use tonight's contest and select other games they played throughout the Lower Mainland as a tune up for their upcoming competition in the FIBA Asia U18 Championship which will be held in Bangalore, India at the end of October. This will be the qualifying tournament for FIBA Asia at the 2019 FIBA Under-19 tournament

The Thunderbirds meanwhile will look to use the encounter as a springboard to open their busy preseason which includes a three-game set through Ontario in late September before returning home for more action through early October.

The Thunderbirds open the Canada West regular season with back-to-back home games against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on October 26 and 27.

PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds