It’s official. Come playoff time, the UNBC Timberwolves are going to be a tough out. With the nationally-ranked UFV Cascades in town, looking to win and secure the #1 seed heading into the Canada West postseason, the TWolves said not-so-fast, beating the Cascades 68-63 on Thursday, February 24.
“Everyone thinks we are underdogs, so there is no pressure on us,” said UNBC leading scorer, Alina Shakirova. “We know we are a good team, and we want to show this. Our best games are against the better teams, because we have so much potential and we are just trying to do our best.”
In the first quarter, UNBC looked to come out fast, and hopped on the Cascades, opening up a 11-4 lead five minutes into the game. Al Tuchscherer called a timeout and settled his team, and they responded, scoring the next seven points to even the score. From there, the teams traded the lead, until a Lucy Guan three gave UNBC the 20-18 advantage they’d hold when the quarter expired.
The Cascades were the more assertive team in the second frame, clamping down defensively with their signature ball pressure and discipline. Deanna Tuchscherer proved why she will be a perennial conference all-star, utilizing her unique size and skill to get to the hoop and finish. UNBC battled to stay with the Cascades, but were struggling to keep UFV off the boards without post Emma vanBruinessen who left the game with an injury. This led to extended possessions, and eventually a 37-32 UFV lead at the half.
Tuchscherer had 16 points and four rebounds to lead all scorers, while her younger sister Julia added nine points off the bench. The TWolves were led by Shakirova with seven points, while posts Laura Garmendia Garcia and Sveta Boykova added six apiece.
The physicality ramped up in the third, as the Timberwolves got aggressive and forced the Cascades into some tough fouls, particularly in the paint. Shakirova played with her usual determination, making some tough baskets despite giving up size to her UFV defenders. Play slowed down, with both offences fighting through the slog. Julia Tuchscherer and Rebecca Landry traded buckets, but ultimate UNBC made their shots at the free throw line and led 50-46 with one quarter to play.
“I like to play against really good teams, and they’re also a really physical team,” said Shakirova. “I think that is my style, too, so I said let’s play this physical game and see who can get the win.”
The fourth quarter was a frustrating ten minutes for the Cascades, as the Timberwolves repeatedly drew contact and made a march to the free throw line. UNBC wasn’t overly efficient from the line, leaving the door open for UFV, but the Cascades couldn’t generate a ton at the offensive end. Maddy Gobeil made things interesting at the 1:40 mark when the second-year buried a three pointer to get Fraser Valley to within one, but Shakirova and Sarah Kuklisin free throws sealed the deal.
Deanna Tuchscherer was strong for UFV, scoring 21 points to go along with nine rebounds. Julia Tuchscherer added 15 points, while Natalie Rathler had eight points and seven boards in a gritty effort.
Shakirova paced the TWolves with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Rebecca Landry, Sveta Boykova, Lucy Guan, Sarah Kuklisin, and Laura Garmendia Garcia all scored at least seven points for the victors.
The loss was particularly frustrating for the Cascades, who would have clinched the first seed and the chance to host the Canada West final four with a win. UNBC improves to 8-9 with the victory. They’ll host the Victoria Vikes on Saturday at the Northern Sport Centre to finish off their regular season schedule.
“It’s amazing. Everyone is up, and we want to keep pushing.,” said Shakirova, postgame. “This is great momentum. We want to keep this mental and physical shape, so we will keep pushing. We just need to go into next game with the same mentality. Be tough, push, and play as a team.”
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