The University of Fraser Valley Cascades didn’t make it easy on themselves, turning it over to the UNBC Timberwolves 33 times, but eventually the #2 ranked team in U SPORTS found their rhythm enough to beat the TWolves 68-57 on Friday in Abbotsford.
The Timberwolves came out defensively intense, pressuring the favoured Cascades into a number of careless turnovers, and jumping out to an early 8-2 lead. Al Tuchscherer would look to his bench, and the UFV reserves did well to calm the nerves and slow the TWolves momentum on two buckets from Esther Allison. Eventually, the slow-paced quarter came to an end with UNBC up 12-8, thanks to a dozen turnovers by the Cascades.
UFV’s starters returned to the game in the second stanza and quickly got back into the game on baskets from Maddy Gobeil and Julia Tuchscherer. Alina Shakirova struggled to get much going offensively for the Timberwolves, but was a menace defensively, picking off passes and getting stops for her young program. Shakirova and Sveta Boykova made back-to-back jumpers to maintain a moderate lead, as the TWolves held a 21-18 advantage with five minutes remaining in the half.
Nikki Cabuco made a pair of triples for the Cascades late in the half, but was answered by an Amrit Manak trey for the Timberwolves, as the teams traded control of the lead. After 20 minutes, Fraser Valley held a 32-29 advantage, despite turning the ball over 19 times.
Garmendia Garcia led the way for UNBC with nine points and four rebounds, while Sarah Kuklisin added eight points and three assists. Shakirova was held to just two points, but secured six steals and four rebounds. Cabuco made a trio of three-pointers for UFV, while her backcourt mate Maddy Gobeil had six points, three rebounds, and three assists.
An early Cabuco three and Gobeil layup stretched the UFV lead to 11 in the third quarter, as Sergey Shchepotkin’s team struggled to make their shots at the other end. The nightmare quarter continued for UNBC, as nothing fell for the TWolves, making just two shots in the frame, and losing the ten-minute span by a 21-6 margin, making it 53-35 going into the fourth quarter.
With the result essentially decided, the Timberwolves showed heart and resilience, led by Shakirova. The fifth-year made two tough layups inside and a three, cutting into the Cascades lead, but her production was matched by UFV’s first team all-star Deanna Tuchscherer who made four baskets in the quarter for the Cascades. Eventually, the buzzer sounded and Fraser Valley had secured a 68-57 win over the TWolves.
UNBC’s shooting woes proved to be the difference, as the team made just 23 of their 72 attempts from the floor, good for 31.9 percent. They also went four-for23 from beyond the arc. For UFV, Al Tuchscherer’s team had trouble with ball possession, turning it over 33 times.
For the Timberwolves, Shakirova had 12 points, five boards, and a program-record eight steals, while Kuklisin and Garmendia Garcia also scored in double figures. Gobeil paced the Cascades with 14 points, along with five rebounds and five helpers. Cabuco scored a dozen points for UFV, all off three-point makes.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday night in Abbotsford for game two of the back-to-back series.