Rich Abney, UNBC Athletics
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - The University of Calgary Dinos came into the Canada West quarterfinals as winners of 15 straight games, and proved why they're a threat to win the conference championship, suffocating the UNBC Timberwolves on the way to an 81-58 victory. The TWolves committed 30 turnovers on the night, creating a hole too deep to climb out of, as Calgary took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
The Dinos came out with a defensive edge in the first quarter, setting the tone with a suffocating trap that forced a number of UNBC turnovers. When the TWolves did get into their offense, the physicality of Calgary gave the visitors trouble, with the Dinos blocking eight attempts in the opening frame. Bobbi Jo Colburn led the home side with ten points, while Alina Shakirova came off the bench to score four opening quarter points for UNBC.
"We knew they were going to press, but we weren't helping each other enough," said UNBC's Emily Holmes. "It is one thing to watch it and whole other thing to play against it. We have to learn from it and do a better job tomorrow."
The second quarter started with Erin McIntosh asserting herself at the offensive end. The Dinos' leading scorer in the regular season made a trio of three-pointers in the first three minutes, stretching the Calgary lead to 17. The Timberwolves showed resolve, working the ball inside and refusing to fall further behind, cutting the lead to 12 at half. After 20 minutes McIntosh led all scorers with 14, while Vasiliki Louka had nine for UNBC, in a 42-30 game.
The Timberwolves looked to chip away in the third stanza, and found success getting into their offense. They cut the deficit down to seven with four minutes remaining in the quarter, but the Dinos proved yet again why they're a Nationally-ranked squad, making big shots to re-establish the lead. Courtney Donaldson made a pair of massive three-pointers at the end of shot clocks, and Calgary held a 60-45 lead heading into the fourth.
"We were taking better care of the ball, and being more patient on offense," said Holmes. "We were getting good looks, but they were hitting those shots. Give them credit, we would play defense for 20 seconds and the last few seconds they would get a look and score it."
The final frame was much like the previous three, with UNBC having moments of positive play, followed by a big shot from the Dinos. The length and athleticism of the home side continued to give the TWolves trouble finding scoring opportunities, and when the final buzzer sounded, Calgary had seized a 1-0 series lead with a 81-58 victory.
Erin McIntosh led the Dinos with 22 points on five-for-five shooting from long range, while Bobbi Jo Colburn added 16 points and nine rebounds. Michaela Niewenhuizen chipped in with 10 points, while Courtney Donaldson had 9 points.
Vasiliki Louka had 16 points and 12 rebounds to pace UNBC, while Maria Mongomo added 14 points and five boards. Madison Landry and Alina Shakirova also reached double-digits with 12 and 10 points respectively.
The two teams will do it all over again in a must-win game for the Timberwolves, on Saturday, February 16th at 6 PM (5 PM Pacific).
"This was a learning experience for us. We hadn't played Calgary, and now we have a better idea for how they play," said Holmes postgame. "We need to be just as aggressive, make some adjustments, and take better care of the ball. We will have a better shot."