By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – Trailing by eight points with less than four minutes to play, the UNBC Timberwolves rallied to outscore Trinity Western 12-2 down the stretch to earn an 80-78 win in the Canada West Play-In Game Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
After TWU's Tessa Ratzlaff (Abbotsford, B.C.) knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Spartans head 76-68, the Timberwolves turned up their press and went to work, coming back to snatch the victory and move on in the Canada West post-season.
UNBC's Alina Shakirova knocked down a 3-pointer to bring her team within two points, 78-76, with 1:56 to play. That sparked the Timberwolves game-ending 7-0 run. Madison Landry tied the game with 54 seconds to play and then Maria Mongomo hit a jumper with 20 seconds on the clock.
TWU had a chance to tie the game at the final buzzer, but Sarah Buckingham's (Surrey, B.C.) jumper rimmed out.
The Timberwolves will now play in the Canada West Quarter-Finals, while the Spartans see their season – one in which TWU post a 12-8 regular season record – come to an end.
Mongomo finished the night with a game-high 29 points, while Louka Vasiliki had a double-double, with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Ratzlaff finished with 20 points and eight boards, while Jessie Brown (Langley) had 13 points, Buckingham had 12 points and Nicole Fransson (Edmonton) had 11 points. For the graduating Ratzlaff, Brown and Buckingham, it was their final games with TWU.
The Timberwolves shot 75 per cent (9-12) from the field in the fourth quarter and were 6 for 6 from the free throw line over the final 10 minutes.
TWU finished the game shooting 42.5 per cent from the field (31-73) and 33.3 per cent from 3-point range (6-18). UNBC finished shooting 47.5 per cent (28-59) from the field and were 47.1 per cent from beyond the arc (8-17).
The teams combined to shoot 26 for 29 from the free throw line (TWU was 10 for 12 and UNBC was 16 for 17).
A tight opening frame saw the Timberwolves take a 22-19 lead through 10 minutes. Mongomo led the visitors with eight points, while it was Ratzlaff putting up a team-high six points for the Spartans.
With UNBC taking a 24-21 lead early in the second quarter, the Spartans went on a 10-3 run to take a 31-24 edge and force the Timberwolves into taking a timeout. However, UNBC responded with a 15-3 run to end the quarter holding a 39-34 lead.
Mongomo had 18 points in the opening half to lead UNBC, while Ratzlaff had a team-high 10 for the Spartans.
TWU opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 44-41 lead after a Jolene Vlieg jumper. From there, it was back-and-forth the rest of the frame, with TWU grabbing a four-point lead, 58-54, heading to the fourth quarter. Louka had a team-high five points in the quarter for UNBC, while four different Spartans putting up four each en route to outscoring the Timberwolves 24-15.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans found their long-ball rhythm and it was a Ratzlaff 3-pointer that put the Spartans up 76-68 with 3:41 to play. However, from there, UNBC took over en route to a dramatic victory.
Cheryl Jean-Paul – TWU Head Coach
"Tonight was bittersweet. So many people had really great performances. They did what we asked them to do. We were scoring inside, we hit some big shots, we made our free throws and we took care of the ball in a lot of situations. This is where basketball is basketball. You can analyze everything, but the reality is one team had to lose and unfortunately it was us today.
"I'm really proud of our senior athletes. They gave 100 per cent of what we needed from them. We're also really excited for some of our younger athletes. They played without any fear and they belonged on the floor today. In some ways you're mourning the end of a season and the end of the careers for some of the most significant players in our program's history, but at the same time you're getting excited for the next group of young players. That's been really special about this year's team. You can see what the younger ones have learned from our veterans and they're going to be so much better because of that. I felt the older athletes took the time to help the younger athletes and they were ready to play today.
"UNBC did a great job today. It could have gone either way and I think both programs have a lot of respect for each other. It was exciting to play in front of large crowd. It's sad that this is how it ended but I think we can be proud of what we accomplished."
• TWU is 4-3 all-time in home playoff games.
• TWU had 11 turnovers while UNBC had 13.
• This weekend's game marks the third straight year TWU has hosted a playoff game.
• TWU last played UNBC earlier this year (Nov. 16-17) with the Spartans dropping both games on the road (78-77 and 83-54). However, TWU played both contests without Ratzlaff, who was sidelined with an injury at the time.
• Last year, TWU hosted Alberta in the Canada West Quarter-Finals, winning the best-of-three series in two games. The year before, in 2016-17, TWU beat Brandon in a best-of-three Canada West Play-In series which the Spartans needed three games to win. It was also the first time TWU had ever hosted a women's basketball playoff game.
About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 10 sports in the Canada West conference, including women's and men's soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men's hockey. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.