It came down to the final minute, but it was the Brandon University Bobcats who held on for a hard-fought two point victory, topping the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves 76-74 on Friday in Prince George.
It was the Bobcats who came out firing in the first quarter, as Shun Williams buried a pair of very long treys, and the visitors led 9-2 early. UNBC settled down, but still found themselves trailing 26-23 after ten minutes.
“They got out to that early lead, and I think they had 20 points in the first five minutes,” said UNBC’s Chris Ross. “There were some blown coverages. Starting ten points behind, you’re going to lose more games”
In the second, both teams dug in defensively, forcing tough shots and contesting everything in the paint. What resulted was a 17-17 quarter with both programs having difficulty generating offensive flow or momentum. The Timberwolves were missing both their starting forwards, Spencer Ledoux and Anthony Hokanson, which allowed Bobcats forward Anthony Tsegakele to assert himself in the dirty areas. At halftime, Brandon held a 43-40 advantage.
In the third quarter, it was a story of missed opportunities, as each team had a number of open looks. UNBC’s Chris Ross and Saje Gosal each made a pair of plays to keep the TWolves afloat offensively, while Jaleel Webb and Tsegakele got their spots for scoring plays for the Bobcats. The war of attrition provided no separation, with the Bobcats winning the quarter 15-14, clinging to a four point lead after three frames.
In the fourth, UNBC was able to clamp down defensively, but ran into turnover troubles at the other end of the court. On a number of occasions, they were unable to convert on good looks, or found themselves losing control, resulting in a string of empty possessions. Despite their troubles, they still found themselves in it late. With Brandon up 72-70, it was Tsegakele who made a tough layup with 33 seconds remaining, doubling the visitors’ lead. After two free throws by Brandon, a Saje Gosal three-pointer with seconds left made it a one possession game, but that’s as close as the TWolves would come.
“We have been through six or seven of these types of games, but we have lost them,” said Brandon’s Williams. “It’s good to finally come out on top of one of the close ones. They have a couple guys who can really go, so we tried to limit them, so they couldn’t do what they normally do.”
The Timberwolves were led by Tyrell Laing who finished with 19 points, seven assists, and three steals. Gosal added 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists, while Ross had 14 points and eight boards. Freshman Fareed Shittu chipped in with eight points, a career-high 14 rebounds, and two blocks.
“We just didn’t make enough plays. That’s what it comes down to,” said Ross. “We had our opportunities, and we just couldn’t grab them It was a tough one. We just missed shots. I think we competed really hard today.”
Brandon was led by Tsegakele, who led all scorers with 24 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five assists. Williams made four three-pointers, scoring 18 points. Jaleel Webb added 16 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
“We are very versatile,” said Williams, postgame “We are a pretty small group of guys, so we need to make sure we box out and rebound. Besides that, it actually usually works to our advantage.”
The two teams will play the second half of their doubleheader on Saturday, January 25 at the Northern Sport Centre in Prince George, B.C.
“We need to win games. We are in a battle with six teams to get into the playoffs,” said Ross. “We are still in it, thankfully. Once you get into playoffs, anything can happen, so we are trying to win a few games.”