A thrilling fourth quarter comeback from the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves led to an exciting 90-81 victory over the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack, Friday, January 4 at the Charles Jago Northern Sports Centre.
The two teams came out firing to start the night, trading baskets throughout the opening two frames. The Wolfpack led 47-43 at the end of the first half, in large part due to their well-rounded scoring. Anton Bilous led the Wolfpack with 12 points and five rebounds off the bench. The Timberwolves closed the half strong with a Jovan Leamy three pointer off a stolen inbounds pass. Leamy led all UNBC scorers with 12 points, and four rebounds at the break.
“It’s hard for them to guard us inside, but they have really good guards,” said TRU’s Derek Rhodes. “We have to defend the ball screen better. When you have good guards, it’s tough.”
The Timberwolves opened the third quarter with back-to-back three’s from Vova Pluzhnikov and Vaggelis Loukas, closing the deficit to a single point. The WolfPack stayed calm, led by veterans Mike Rouault and Derek Rhodes, whose mid-range game helped the visitors lead 65-59 at the end of the quarter.
With the help of the lively Northern Sports Centre crowd, the Timberwolves began to mount their comeback. Halfway through the fourth quarter, three-pointers from Vova Pluzhnikov and Anthony Hokanson gave the Timberwolves a 76-72 lead with just 4:49 remaining. Both teams continued to trade baskets, but with just 42 seconds remaining, Jovan Leamy managed to sink a fading three-pointer with a hand in his face to give the Timberwolves a six-point lead, and ultimately ice the game. UNBC outscored the WolfPack 30-16 in the final stanza, which proved to be the difference.
“I feel like I can make any shot. Why take it if you don’t think you can make it,” said Leamy postgame. “Everyone’s confidence needs to be high, that is the only way we will be successful.”
“We gave them way too many points in the fourth,” said Rhodes postgame. “Our goal is to keep teams to 17 per quarter. We caved. Mainly the guards, and I was a big part of that. We let them get to the rim for too many easy buckets.”
Vova Pluzhnikov led all scorers with 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Jovan Leamy went for 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, including a game ending three-pointer.
“That showed the character of our team. TRU is always a hard-fought game, and we knew it would be a battle,” said Leamy. “We got the guys together, and we fought. That is exactly what we need to keep doing.”
The Wolfpack had four players in double-digit scoring on the night, with Mike Rouault, Derek Rhodes, and Joe Davis all scoring 17 points.
This victory pushes the Timberwolves to 7-4 on the season, while TRU falls to 4-7. The two teams face off again Saturday night in Prince George.