Stu Walters/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds outlasted the Victoria Vikes 113-108 in a thrilling marathon outing that saw records fall before concluding after three overtime periods. It was an instant classic Legends Cup rivalry meeting and the two teams will have to find enough energy to face each other again in under 48 hours come Saturday night in Victoria.
After struggling early in the game with some poor shooting and never leading through the rest of regulation time the T-Birds chipped away at a six point fourth quarter deficit and while trailing by two points with just 16 seconds remaining in the game the 'Birds leaned on fourth-year guard Maddison Penn to hit both of her free throw attempts to tie it up at 70-70 and force extra time. UBC would eventually ride that momentum and rely on key contributions from Keylyn Filewich and Kate Johnson while other key starters were forced to watch having fouled out of the contest en route to securing the dramatic come from behind victory. The T-Birds broke two school records in the win, beginning with 113 points which eclipses the previous high of 112 set in 1999 while Filewich set a new T-Birds women's basketball single game rebounding record in collecting a game high 27 boards on the night.
There were several standout performers on the night and leading the way was sweet shooting fifth-year Vikes guard Amira Giannattasio who was lethal from the floor and broke a 40 year old UVic record for points scored in a game after draining a game high 44 points on the night. The 44 points go down as the third most points scored in Canada West women's basketball history and she was dazzling to watch until fouling out of the game with about two minutes to go in the third overtime. Giannattasio was worth the price of admission in hitting 15 of her 30 field goal attempts while converting on four of her 10 three point attempts and 10 of her 12 free throws. Fellow guard Ashlyn Day chipped in with 22 points for the visitors.
The T-Birds saw Penn and Johnson share the team high in points with 27 each, while Penn also added 14 rebounds before fouling out late in the first overtime period. Filewich was an absolute force in the paint as evidenced by her aforementioned rebounding effort but she also set the scoring pace late in contributing 21 of her 23 points on the night from the fourth quarter through to the end of the game. Also dominating when it counted most was Johnson who scored 19 points in the three overtime periods to ensure home court victory.
Each overtime period couldn't have been more dramatic with seconds left in the first overtime and UBC looking to run out the clock leading 86-84 the T-Birds were inbounding from their own end and turned it over to Giannattasio who swiftly drove the lane for a layup and an 86-86 score line to force a second overtime.
There was even more drama to finish off the second overtime as UBC led 101-98 with 1.5 seconds remaining and trying to deny Giannattasio a three-point shot the T-Birds fouled her in the act of shooting which sent the veteran to the free throw line. Giannattasio would go on to calmly hit all three shots to tie the contest at 101-101 and force a third and final overtime frame.
Following the game UBC head coach was asked to give her thoughts on the epic evening.
"83 rebounds for us wow, you know it was one of those ones where we had a really slow start and struggled for the first 25 minutes," said Huband. "We then got it going and had some opportunities to win but we made some youth mistakes but I think there was a lot of learning that took place as we had a lot of youth on the floor through the overtimes. I think this is the best way to learn by going through the experience so I think we'll be better off for it after showing a lot of tenacity and grit and mental toughness to keep playing even after we almost gave the game away at the end of the first two overtimes."
Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair said this one was an absolute roller coaster to be a part of.
"I think you know our shooting is going to come and go a bit especially against a great defensive team like UBC," said Sinclair. "I think it's pretty clear where the game is won, we gave them over 100 shots so there are certainly some things that are painful in terms of decisions down the stretch but you can't expect to win a game when you give up 33 offensive boards and that's where they won the game."
Sinclair also touched on the outstanding record-breaking output from Amira Giannattasio.
"She seems to love this gym," continued Sinclair. "Her whole career she's been lights out in this gym and I wish for her we could have pulled it out but you know credit to UBC for coming back late in the game and a good learning experience for our group. Hopefully in the immediate future it's something we can learn from for Saturday night."
With the win, the T-Birds improve to 2-1 while the Vikes fall to 1-2 on the young season, the two teams will square off once again in the second of the home and home Legends Cup rivalry series on Saturday night in Victoria with a 6:00 p.m. tip off.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds