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Timberwolves push nationally-ranked Cascades, fall 77-70 in CW playoffs

UNBC photo

Up against a nationally-ranked program with eyes on a U SPORTS title, the UNBC Timberwolves didn’t make it easy. With their gutsiest effort of the season, the TWolves pushed the Fraser Valley Cascades for 40 minutes, eventually falling 77-70 to UFV, concluding their season on Friday in Edmonton.

In the early going, both defenses dug in, forcing the opposition into tough shots. Canada West All-Star Maddy Gobeil gave UFV an early lead on a triple, before UNBC’s own All-Star, Alina Shakirova, answered with a triple of her own. Gobeil continued to assert herself, slicing to the hoop for tough finishes in the paint, while UNBC looked to keep pace with jumpers from Sveta Boykova and Laura Garmendia Garcia.

After Gobeil buried another triple to the Cascades a late lead, it was Boykova making a three at the buzzer to give the Timberwolves a 16-15 advantage after ten minutes.

Nikki Cabuco came out firing in the second quarter, making treys on back-to-back possessions to build a small edge for the Cascades, but UNBC’s Sarah Kuklisin made two threes of her own, knotting the game midway through the frame. Sergey Shchepotkin’s team continued to compete on the defensive end, hounding Fraser Valley into uncharacteristically bad shots and a pair of shot clock violations.

UFV would settle down, with second-year post Julia Tuchscherer getting a pair of buckets inside to go, and her big sister Deanna getting to the hoop with success against the pesky TWolves defenders. The TWolves would push back in the final minute of the half, but found themselves down 38-31 when the buzzer sounded.

Gobeil led UFV with a game-high 13 points, to go along with six rebounds and four steals. Shakirova paced UNBC with 12 points and five rebounds in the half.

The teams came out trading baskets in the third quarter, as UNBC senior Olivia Wilson got two tough putbacks to drop, while Deanna Tuchscherer was up to the challenge at the other end with a pair of layups. Back-to-back treys from Rebecca Landry and Jenna Korolek gave UNBC their first lead at the game at the 5:30 mark of the quarter, but that possession of the lead and momentum was a game of hot potato the rest of the frame.

Maddy Gobeil put her stamp on the stanza, getting a tough and-one to go for UFV, but Sarah Kuklisin would make the final shot of the quarter, making a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the TWolves a 53-51 lead.

UFV came out the more assertive side early in the fourth, as a lid appeared over the basket the TWolves were shooting on. As UNBC struggled to get anything to drop, missing their first six shots, Gobeil and the Cascades built a moderate lead as the clock ticked down.

However, the TWolves wouldn’t go away. Kuklisin and Landry hit triples, cutting the deficit back down to three points inside the four-minute mark. They’d take the lead on a Garmendia Garcia jumper, before Cabuco knocked down a three at the other end to give Fraser Valley the lead yet again.

With the clock working against them, UNBC continued to press the action, but every time they’d make a basket, the Cascades would answer. Garmendia Garcia made a midrange jumper, Cabuco answered. Landry made a huge three, but Tuchscherer got a tough and-one to drop. Eventually, the buzzer would sound, with the Cascades earning an incredibly hard-fought 77-71 decision.

Gobeil was the engine for UFV, scoring 26 points, grabbing 11 boards, and adding five assists and four steals. Cabuco had 17 points, including five three-pointers, while Deanna Tuchscherer had 17 points and seven rebounds.

For UNBC, Shakirova had 17 points and eight rebounds in the final game of her Canada West career. Kuklisin made four three-pointers on her way to a 12 point, six rebounds, and four assists. Garmendia Garcia had 12 points off the bench, while Landry added 11 points.

The game marks the final game in the careers of Shakirova, Olivia Wilson, and Jenna Korolek.

UFV now moves on to the Canada West quarterfinal, where they will take on the Alberta Pandas on Saturday, February 18 in Edmonton.

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