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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Timberwolves lose OT heartbreaker after 26-point comeback versus Cascades

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It was one of the wildest games in UNBC Basketball history. A 26-point deficit and incredible comeback. A buzzer beater. A back-and-forth overtime. And, unfortunately, a heartbreaking loss as the UNBC Timberwolves fell 95-93 in added time to the UFV Cascades on Saturday, October 30 in Abbotsford.

In the first quarter, it was the Cascades that came out the more energized team. Jordan Sekhon scored a quick seven points and UFV made eight of their first 13 field goal attempts, taking an early 18-9 lead.

The TWolves went to the bench, looking to inject some energy into a listless start, as the home crowd became increasingly energized by the Cascades effort. However, UFV did well to maintain their early momentum, and led 25-14 after ten minutes on 61 percent shooting.

The Cascades got off to a good start in the second quarter, stretching their lead to 17 on the back of post Kyle Claggett and his three early buckets. The shooting woes continued for UNBC, starting the game shooting 6-for-25 from the field as the deficit mounted.

The Timberwolves began to chip away in the late moments of the half, as Payton Tirrell made a three and a tough floater, and Fareed Shittu got to the rim with some success, but the first 20 minutes couldn’t end quick enough for UNBC. At the half, the Cascades held a 47-34 lead, thanks to a 36-16 advantage in points in the paint.

“Our mindset was to chip away, one stop at a time. We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we started to get it inside. We put ourselves in the position and had to find a way to dig ourselves out,” said UNBC guard Chris Ross. “Toor was going downhill on us, so we were losing the point of attack and not helping. We gave up way too much easy stuff early.”

In the third quarter, the teams traded buckets, with Spencer Ledoux leading the charge for UNBC and Vick Toor propelling the Cascades. The TWolves cut the lead all the way down to nine points, as Tyrell Laing made a pair of three-pointers and Ledoux continued to work in the paint. In the final minute, Vova Pluzhnikov and Chris Ross each made treys, and UNBC found themselves down just four points after 30 minutes.

“It is contagious, as soon as guys get going. The bench was so fired up, getting everyone going. We were feeding off each other and the great defensive plays we were making,” said Ross, of the comeback. “I was feeling much more confident, for sure. The offense comes easier in those moments.”

The TWolves continued to play inspired basketball in the fourth quarter, using an inspired commitment to defense to turn into transition possessions, capped by a Laing layup that gave UNBC the lead three minutes into the frame.

The tension was palpable in the gym, as a blowout turned into a back-and-forth affair as the game was knotted as the clock ticked down. Rohtash Mattu continued his strong second half and gave the Cascades fits with his range, making a big trey with three minutes to go to give UNBC a three-point lead at 76-73. A Kyle Claggett three-pointer for UFV made it a one-point contest, but Laing was there to extend the lead again, burying a corner three on a look from Vova Pluzhnikov.

Trailing by three points with just seconds remaining, the Cascades made a deep three at the buzzer to knot the game at 84-84, thrilling the home crowd and meaning the game was headed for overtime.

The Cascades came out firing in added time, energized by the buzzer beater, scoring the first four points of overtime. In the final minute, UNBC trailed by a single point, but cue the dramatics. Chris Ross gathered his own miss on a trey, gathered, and got a tough and-one putback to give the TWolves the late lead.

After a UFV layup gave the Cascades the one-point advantage, the Timberwolves got last possession. Fareed Shittu grabbed an offensive rebound, where chaos ensued. Tons of contact ended up with a jump-ball under the hoop, and an ensuing scuffle in the paint ended up with multiple fouls, and essentially, the end of the game.

“It felt like it was ours. We turned it over at a bad time, and then they hit that three. It was tough because we fought so hard to get back into the game. In OT we were tired and battled but we couldn’t get it done. It was deflating. But going 1-1 this weekend, with a chance to win both. We look forward to what is coming up.”

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