Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER — The UBC Thunderbirds (7-4) started slow but dominated the second and third quarters Friday night en route to a 69-51 win over the UBC Okanagan Heat (0-13) at War Memorial Gym, kicking off 2019 with a fourth straight Canada West victory.
The 'Birds were outscored 17-10 in the opening frame, UBC's first quarter of play in over a month. But the home squad shook off the rust and wasted little time in the second to erase the deficit and take the lead before the break, never looking back.
Led by Maddison Penn's 11 point effort in the third, UBC outscored the Heat 27-11 in the frame to equal their greatest single quarter offensive output on the season. It was more than enough to dispatch UBCO who continue to search for their first win of the campaign.
"It's always tough, that first game back, it had been a long time since December 1st," said UBC head coach Deb Huband who was pleased with her team's response after the opening ten minutes. "We had a flat start in the first quarter, second quarter was a lot better and the third was our best. There were some good signs once we got going. It's a step in the right direction but there's still a lot of work to do ahead of us."
The visitors got out to a quick 9-1 run off the opening tipoff while the 'Birds struggled early to find their way both from the field and the charity stripe. But Hailey Counsell sunk a no-doubter from three-point range and after a Heat turnover, the 'Birds closed the gap further with a Penn layup.
UBC got within two points before the Heat went on another run to take a 17-10 lead at the quarter break. The bulk of the damage was done by Vanessa Botteselle who put up 13 points while going a perfect 2-for-2 from three-point range.
The 'Birds had a rough first frame of the New Year in all aspects, shooting just 2-for-18 from the field while the Heat shot just shy of 37 percent.
Keylyn Filewich scored her first basket of the game two minutes into the second and then pulled the 'Birds within one with another pair of layups. UBC took their first lead of the game on a Tanis Metcalfe shot from the paint.
Okanagan scored their first basket of the frame six minutes in to halt the T-Birds' 10-0 run to start the quarter. Some quick passing down low by the 'Birds was capped off by another Metcalfe basket and a Jessica Hanson layup opened up a seven point UBC lead. The Heat answered back with a Botteselle three pointer and the visitors from Kelowna got back within two, down 28-26 at the half.
Filewich caught fire in the second quarter draining five of six shots from the field while adding a pair of free throws for a 12 point frame.
The 'Birds put their start well past them by the early stages of the second half as Penn dropped back-to-back threes as part of a 13-3 run to start the third. UBC held the Heat to just 11 points in the frame while scoring a whopping 27 of their own to take a 55-37 lead heading to the fourth.
The Heat remained determined to close their large deficit in the final ten minutes which featured some quick back-and-forth action. But Okanagan was unable to gain momentum as the home side cruised to the 69-51 win.
Filewich led the 'Birds with 20 points while adding ten rebounds for the double-double performance. Penn also finished with the double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"We need our leaders to set the tone offensively, defensively and with intensity and level of compete," added Huband who saw her veteran players like Penn lead the charge after a slow start. "Jess Hanson was another notable, Keylyn (Filewich) stepped up her game, you need that from your leaders but you'd like to see that right from the first minute."
The Heat's Botteselle was limited to just four points in the final frame but still finished with a game-high 29. Second-year forward Brianna Falk led Okanagan in rebounds with nine total.
After shooting 11.1 percent from the field in the opening quarter, the 'Birds drained 8-of-17 in the second and 10-of-19 in the third and finished the game at 37.7 percent. The Heat shot 31.9 percent and didn't fare much better at the free throw line sinking just three of their eight attempts.
The 'Birds and their UBC rivals from Kelowna will battle again Saturday at War Memorial with the home side looking to extend a season-long win streak. Tipoff is set for 5:00 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds