The Trinity Western Spartans turned up the defensive intensity, coming from behind to top the shorthanded UNBC Timberwolves 65-58 on Friday in Prince George.
Defence was the name of the game early on, as both teams found points tough to come by in the opening minutes. UNBC got it going, thanks to six points from Canada West All-Star Alina Shakirova, while the Spartans were led by gritty guard Hailey Roekel’s five. After ten minutes, the Timberwolves led 17-12.
Trinity came out hungry in the second quarter, clamping down on Shakirova and pressing the UNBC backcourt that found itself down starting guards Sarah Kuklisin and Rebecca Landry. Nicole Fransson chipped into the deficit with an and-one play for TWU, while her counterpart, Sveta Boykova earned a pair of buckets in the paint at the other end. A Jolene Vlieg triple cut the UNBC lead to a single point, but freshman Amrit Manak made back-to-back treys to answer for the TWolves.
At the half, UNBC led 36-29, powered by Shakirova’s 11 and Manak’s eight off the bench, Boykova chipped in with six points and six boards. For TWU, it was Vlieg leading the way with nine points and four rebounds.
The physicality increased in the third quarter, with the officials electing to let a lot go in the paint. That suited the Spartans just fine, as Jayden Gill pushed the pace and earned herself a pair of fast-break buckets to reduce the deficit. Jenna Korolek, making the first start of her career, answered with a steal and three t buoy the home team for the time being. Veteran Olivia Wilson settled UNBC down, playing the role of distributor on offense, and the Timberwolves clung to a four-point lead with three minutes left in the stanza.
However, the Spartans relentless pressure led to turnover trouble for the TWolves, and TWU clawed back to make it 49-49 with ten minutes to go.
Trinity poured it on early in the fourth with Roekel and Gill getting tough finishes in the paint, aiding the visitors to a six-point lead. For the rest of the quarer, every time the Timberwolves made a bucket, the Spartans answered. Nicole Fransson converted a putback after Wilson made a tough bucket. Vlieg made a jumper after Cevanna Carlson converted inside.
Eventually, the Timberwolves ran out of time, with the Spartans claiming a 65-58 victory to open the Canada West campaign.
Gill was the game’s high scorer with 18 points, while Roekel added 12 points and three boards. Shakirova paced UNBC with 15 points and seven boards, while Boykova added 14 points and eight rebounds. Korolek reached double figures with 10 points.
The two teams clash again on Saturday, at 4 p.m. at the Northern Sport Centre.
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