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Sunga’s clutch OT performance lifts TWolves to victory

KAMLOOPSJustin Sunga chose the perfect opportunity to catch fire. Friday afternoon in Kamloops, the UNBC Timberwolves men (8-7) secured a dramatic 69-67 overtime victory over the TRU Wolfpack (3-10). 11 of Justin Sunga’s team-leading 17 points came in overtime as he helped UNBC erase a five-point deficit in the extra period. Josh Gillespie chimed in with 17 of his own while Evgeny Baukin added a 14-point, 10 rebound double-double effort for Todd Jordan’s squad. Daniel Bost led all TRU players with 14 points while Denys Bachurin supplied 11 points and 10 rebounds.
 
The opening 10 minutes were an offensive struggle for both sides, but Todd Jordan’s club led 13-4 after one. It took four-plus minutes for either team to register a point as the two teams combined for 16 straight misses, 10 of which came from TRU. Spencer Ledoux made a free-throw to finally register a point for UNBC, then Chris Ross grabbed a Justin Sunga rebound and put it in for the game’s first field-goal. With the score at 6-4, the TWolves closed the quarter with a 7-0 run which included a triple from Dylon Matthews and buckets in close from Josh Gillespie and Evgeny Baukin. The WolfPack shot just two-for-19 in the opening quarter.
 
A better second quarter from TRU helped push them to within seven points of the Timberwolves at half. Early on though, it was an early three from Sunga that extended the UNBC lead to 16-4. Cyrus Harrison hit back-to-back buckets for TRU to make it 16-8. He had six of the first eight points for the WolfPack. UNBC answered with a pair of buckets from rookie Will Keyes– both of which stemmed from nifty Sunga feeds. Late in the period, Simon Crossfield and Jason Okoro hit back-to-back threes for TRU, forcing the game back into single-digit reach.
 
Halfway through the score showed 29-22 for UNBC on the strength of eight points from Gillespie (3/3 FG), seven-points and five-rebounds from Baukin. And four points, three rebounds and three helpers from Sunga.
 
After a slow start to the third, the WolfPack ended up outscoring UNBC 18-14. Five different TWolves found pay dirt in the opening minutes of the quarter. Baukin had a pair of field goals while Gillespie, Ledoux, Sunga and Ross also chimed in. But TRU stayed within striking distance thanks to back-to-back layups from Thomas Olsen and Jason Okoro. Chris Ross hit two late free-throws to make it 43-37 for UNBC, but with eight seconds to go, Daniel Bost responded with a late three pushing TRU to within a three-point gap at 43-40. Bost supplied eight points in the third quarter for TRU, leading the WolfPack with 10 points through 30 minutes.
 
Another tough offensive start for both squads as the first points of the fourth quarter came nearly four minutes in off a pair of free throws from TRU’s Evan Smith. Free-throws from Josh Gillespie (2), Spencer Ledoux (1) and Evgeny Baukin (1) helped push UNBC back ahead by six points at 47-41. Gillespie later added a lay up to make it an eight-point UNBC lead. TRU once again found an answer with a 9-2 run, highlighted by threes from Denys Bachurin and Simon Crossfield. Bachurin then hit a go-ahead three for TRU with 1:02 left, giving the WolfPack their first lead of the day at 54-52. Baukin responded with two for UNBC, forcing a 54-54 tie, which is how the fourth quarter would end.
 
TRU found some early momentum in overtime when Denys Bachurin secured the first five points off a triple and two free-throws. Justin Sunga answered his first triple of OT, moving UNBC back within two. Four points from Bost and a single free-throw from Harrison led to a 5-2 run for TRU and a 64-59 lead. The rest of OT would belong to the Sun God. First, Sunga hit a layup to get within three. Next possession – A deep three tying the game at 64! The score remained tied until there were 17 seconds left, that’s when Sunga, again, dialed it in from deep and hit the go-ahead trey for the TWolves, giving them a 67-64 advantage.
 
The final two points of the day for UNBC came from a pair of successful Josh Gillespie free-throws, and they would prove important, as Simon Crossfield hit a prayer from beyond the arc that moved the WolfPack within two. Then, off an in-bound turnover, TRU regained possession, but couldn’t convert on their final three-point attempt which cemented the victory for UNBC – their eighth of the season.
 
Sunga’s overall stat line included 17 points, four triples, six rebounds and five assists, but his overtime was especially dominant. The second-year guard from Burnaby posted 11 points on four-of-four shooting. Three of those four field goals came from deep. Naturally, Sunga’s heroics Friday earned him Earls Road Warrior of the Game honours.
 
With the win, UNBC improves to 8-7 on the season, and gives them their fourth straight victory over TRU. They’ll look to extend that streak even further when they battle the WolfPack once again tomorrow evening at 7:30 pm from Kamloops.
 

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