Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – To beat a nationally ranked opponent, you need your best players to be the best versions of themselves, and you need extraordinary contributions from unexpected sources.
That's what the University of the Fraser Valley women's basketball team got on Friday evening, as they knocked off the previously undefeated, U SPORTS No. 10-ranked UNBC Timberwolves by a score of 72-66 at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.
Cascades leading scorer Taylor Claggett was reliably outstanding, racking up a game-high 28 points to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
But perhaps the biggest difference-maker of the night was UFV rookie Madeline Beerwald. The 5'11" forward out of Abbotsford's W.J. Mouat Secondary came in averaging 0.6 points per game, with just one made field goal to her name over her seven previous appearances. UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer tapped Beerwald for her first career start on Friday, tasking her with defending T-Wolves' 6'3" standout centre Vasiliki Louka. Beerwald not only brought energy in that department, she managed 11 points of her own, including a clutch 15-foot jump shot with 12.9 seconds left in regulation to expand a two-point UFV lead to four, and effectively ice the game.
The Cascades (4-5) and T-Wolves (6-1) renew hostilities on Saturday evening (5 p.m., EFAC).
"UNBC is a very strong opponent, and they're having a great season," Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer noted. "For us, we've been close a few times this season, and to get a quality win against a quality opponent is something our team really needed.
"We wanted to push the ball tonight, and I thought we did a good job of that. We've been trying to play a little bit quicker, and we haven't been getting the results from it, but we stuck with it. It paid off tonight, particularly late in the game."
Each of the first three quarters played out in similar fashion, with the Cascades asserting themselves early and the T-Wolves reeling them in late.
In the first, UFV led by as many as five points, before UNBC rallied for an 18-16 lead at the end of the frame following a Maria Mongomo bucket in the paint.
In the second quarter, the hosts opened on an 11-0 run capped by a Kate Head triple to seize a 27-18 edge, but the T-Wolves responded, with Canada West's top two scorers – Mongomo and Louka – doing much of the damage and led 36-25 at the break.
The Cascades' largest lead in the third was 52-47, but once again UNBC had a counterpunch with Madison Landry scoring the last four points of the frame to give the visitors a 55-54 margin heading to the fourth.
The T-Wolves began the final frame on a 5-0 run to grab their largest lead of the night, but UFV scored the next eight points – three apiece from Beerwald and Amanda Thompson to snag the advantage right back. Mongomo drove the left baseline with two minutes remaining to give UNBC a 66-65 edge, but those were the last points they would score. Victoria Jacobse knocked down a clutch triple on the next Cascades possession, and Beerwald made it a two-possession game in the dying seconds. After another defensive stop, Claggett swished a pair of free throws (her 15th and 16th of the night on 19 total attempts) to provide the final margin.
"The clock was going down and I was open, but I'd just missed one the play before, and I was like, 'Oh my goodness,'" Beerwald said with a chuckle, reflecting on her late basket. "I let it go, and luckily it went in. It felt pretty good. It felt like, 'This is why we play.'
"You can't play scared in this league. If you're given your shot to go out (and play), you have to give it your all at this point. We break our backs every day and push for hours on end to play these games, so you might as well give it what you've got while you can."
Mongomo (21 points, nine rebounds) and Louka (23 points, 11 boards) both had big games for the visitors, and Landry (12 points) also scored in double figures. The T-Wolves got just 10 points from the rest of their roster, though.
T-Wolves coach Sergey Shchepotkin noted that with his team in first place and cracking the national rankings this past week, they can expect to get their opponents' best shot every night.
"The ball is round, right? It can go either way," he said, reflecting on the result.
"Everybody is going to play us tough, especially UFV. UFV always plays us tough. They're a good team."
Thompson chipped in with 12 points for the Cascades, while Jacobse (seven points, nine rebounds, seven assists) and Head (seven points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals) both stuffed the stat sheet.