Stu Walters / UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The 12th ranked Winnipeg Wesmen put forth an impressive overall team road effort to upset the number five seed UBC Thunderbirds 67-64 in Canada West play in game action Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Gym.
The Wesmen were fairly lethal from three-point land, hitting nine of their 26 attempts in the victory which sees them advance to meet the number one seed Saskatchewan Huskies in a best of three quarter final series beginning later next week.
Dynamic third-year point guard Farrah Castillo was tough to contain from the opening tip off and led the Wesmen with a team high 20 points which included hitting three of nine shots from three-point land. Lena Wenke followed up with 16 points while the Canada West regular season scoring leader Faith Hezekiah was limited to 12 first half points and a team high 11 rebounds before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
Maddison Penn led the way for the T-Birds with a game high 21 points and added 13 rebounds while Keylyn Filewich also registered a double double tallying 16 points and a game high 17 rebounds. Gabby Laguerta was dangerous from outside in hitting three of her six three-point attempts to collect nine points on the afternoon.
"We're incredibly proud, we were ranked twelve and they were ranked fifth," said Wesmen head coach Tanya Mckay. "I'm sure nobody expected that but us, you know we've steadily gotten better all season and everybody says they only have Faith Hezekiah, she's our only player, well we've got some hidden gems and those gems came to play today."
"I think obviously we didn't play the way we had anticipated or wanted to," said UBC head coach Deb Huband. "I think we were a little bit overwhelmed maybe by the pressure of the moment. There were a lot of uncharacteristic things that happened on the floor today but credit Winnipeg I think they played with bravery and courage and with nothing to lose and they're very deserving of the win."
The Fourth quarter was a thrilling back and forth tug of war with Laguerta's early three-pointer evening up the proceedings at 55-55 to whip the home crowd into a frenzy. Penn's turnaround jumper and Filewich's inside drive put the 'Birds in front 59-55 leading to a Winnipeg timeout. Coming out of the break it was Castillo coming up clutch yet again hitting her third attempt of the afternoon from three-point land to trail 59-58. Minutes later Deborah Nikiasi was good from downtown for the Wesmen to go up 65-59 setting up the late game drama. With just over two minutes remaining Filewich earned the hoop and the harm for a three-point play to inch closer at 65-62 before Penn hit two free throws to make it a one-point game at 65-64 with a minute to play. The T-Birds were unable to execute on two successive drives down court while the visitors put forth an active defence and in the end, it was fitting that Castillo put the game on ice hitting one of two free throws with seconds remaining to lead Winnipeg to a 67-64 win.
The intensity was evident early to open post season play which included the Wesmen showing no hesitation to shoot from beyond the arc in hitting four of their 10 attempts and a 40 percent clip in the first quarter. Wenke drained the first attempt from downtown to go in front 6-2 before Castillo hit the first of her two from distance in the frame to lead 9-7. Castillo's second three pointer was the beginning of a 9-0 scoring run for the visitors giving them a 20-12 lead thanks to many of Hezekiah's quarter high eight points. Hailey Counsel would answer back for UBC counting the hosts lone three-pointer of the quarter to pull within five at 20-15 before Winnipeg would respond with a Boulanger three-pointer before time expired and a 23-16 first quarter advantage. Hezekiah also registered a quarter high six rebounds as she made her presence felt early while Maddison Penn paced the T-Birds with six points in the opening frame.
The second quarter saw a more even back and forth but it was still the visitors getting the upper hand in outscoring UBC 18-17. A Jessica Dyck three-pointer put Winnipeg up 28-22 before UBC answered with consecutive baskets from Filewich and Penn to trail 28-26 and causing the Wesmen to call a timeout. Winnipeg would respond with a three-pointer from Robyn Boulanger to go up 31-26 followed by four straight points from Hezekiah to go up 37-28. Laguerta would hit the T-Birds second three-pointer of the frame to pull within four at 37-33 but again Winnipeg delivered the final dagger as Castillo showed some quick jitterbug moves to find space in the key to drop two of her quarter high six points giving the Wesmen a 41-33 halftime lead.
The T-Birds were more efficient in the third frame in outscoring the Wesmen 19-14 and they set the tone with a couple of three-point plays from leaders Penn and Filewich. Each went inside for the hoop and the harm to pull within six, trailing 46-40 before Laguerta drained her second three pointer of the contest to close the gap to 47-46. Wenke scored a quarter high five points with Castillo just behind with four points helping the Wesmen to a 55-52 lead after three quarters.
With the loss, the T-Birds season comes to an end while the Wesmen advance to meet the number one seed Saskatchewan Huskies in a best of three Canada West quarter final series beginning later next week.
PHOTO: Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds