Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The University of the Fraser Valley women's basketball team wrapped up a stunning sweep of the nation's No. 10-ranked team, knocking off the UNBC Timberwolves 74-71 on Saturday evening at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.
Coming off a 72-66 triumph in Friday's opener, the Cascades and T-Wolves once again battled down to the wire, with the hosts making a few more plays down the stretch than did the visitors.
Taylor Claggett, fresh off a 28-point outburst the night before, racked up 25 points and 11 rebounds to set the tone for the Cascades. Katelyn Mallette had a huge contribution off the bench with 15 points in just 12 minutes, and Amanda Thompson counted a trio of three-pointers among her 13 points.
Madison Landry paced UNBC with 19 points, Maria Mongomo (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Vasiliki Louka (16 points, 11 boards) had double-doubles, and Alina Shakirova scored 13 off the bench.
The Cascades levelled their record at 5-5, while the T-Wolves fell to 6-2.
In the aftermath, UFV bench boss Al Tuchscherer acknowledged his team carried itself with a new sense of confidence this weekend.
"It was a big step for our team – believing in ourselves, believing in the work we've put in, and believing in each other," Tuchscherer enthused. "You could see it on the court – sharing the ball, being there for each other defensively. I'm proud of them.
"We talked after the game about how some of the practices the past few weeks have been pretty tough. We've been working hard, and that's why you do those things – so you can play a tough game for 40 minutes. I thought that was a huge factor in our success."
The Cascades picked up where they'd left off on Friday, building an early 16-8 lead behind seven quick points from Claggett. They maintained a 35-28 lead at the break, and stretched the lead to double digits at 64-54 early in the fourth after Mallette poured in five straight points to open the final frame.
Canada West leading scorer Mongomo took over at that point, reeling off seven points consecutively to cut the visitors' deficit to 64-61. But from that point, the Cascades answered every UNBC bucket with one of their own. Mongomo drilled a three-pointer from the left wing with 40 seconds left in regulation to get the T-Wolves to within 70-68, but with 25 seconds left, UFV rookie forward Madeline Beerwald came through with a 15-foot baseline jumper to make it a two-possession game. It was a moment of déjà vu for Beerwald, who made an almost identical shot in the dying seconds on Friday.
Mongomo missed a trey on the next trip, and Claggett sealed the deal with a pair of free throws. Landry connected from downtown at the buzzer to provide the final margin.
"It was pretty much the same game, right?" T-Wolves coach Sergey Shchepotkin observed afterward. "UFV shot very well, and they're aggressive and played pretty good defence."
UNBC had come into the weekend undefeated, and despite the results in Abbotsford, Shchepotkin felt his squad played pretty well for the most part.
"We're still a young program," Shchepotkin said. "Two years ago, nobody thought about us as a top-10 team. We're progressing, and it's happened that we've made the top 10. It's a good sign for us, but I still believe we need a lot of work.
"It's good to play vs. strong teams like UFV and to get that experience. It's a test for us. I think we played pretty well . . . It's not about the result – it's more about what quality of the game we're showing. I'm happy that we fought until the end and tried our best to win. They shot better than us, so they won. But at least we are not down too much. We are showing, I believe, pretty good basketball. We'll keep working on it."
The Cascades hit the road next weekend to face the UBC Okanagan Heat, while the T-Wolves visit the Saskatchewan Huskies for a Thursday-Friday set.