Saturday night in Prince George, the UNBC Timberwolves (9-11) wrapped up their 2023-24 Canada West regular season with a hard-fought 91-86 loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies. A 21-point effort from Easton Thiimm paced the Huskies to a weekend split. The major focus on the night was on the three UNBC men’s basketball grads – Spencer Ledoux, Chris Ross and Darren Hunter who all finished in double-digits offensively. Ledoux led the way with 19 points while Justin Sunga matched the UNBC men’s basketball single-game assist record with 10.
The Huskies roared out of the gates with more energy compared to a night ago. They started the game on a 15-5 run with De Ciman and Thimm notching six each. Nine of the 15 points came from deep. Thimm would add four more later in the quarter to finish with 10. Defensively he was dominant too as he pulled an impressive nine boards – four of which were off the offensive glass. Evgeny Baukin did his part to try and spark the TWolves as he earned six of his team’s 13 opening quarter points. Josh Gillespie had four points and a team-leading three first quarter rebounds and Ledoux snagged his first three points of the night.
A better quarter for the TWolves in the second, as they outscored Saskatchewan 25-23. Sunga did a ton of heavy lifting with five points and six assists and led all players with eight total first-half assists. Ross got in on the act with five points as he hit from deep and added a deuce, while his fifth-year counterpart Ledoux added six more. Darren Hunter’s first two points of the night also came in the second but the loudest ovation of the quarter came after an emphatic Josh Gillespie slam dunk. For the visitors, Alexander Dewar had six, Tyrese Potoma added five and Thimm supplied four. Thimm led all first-half scorers with 14. Thimm reached double-double status with his 10th rebound of the night as well.
The TWolves continued to chip away, outscoring Saskatchewan by nine in the third. Two early threes from Ross helped guide UNBC on a 12-7 run, forcing them back to within nine points. The Huskies were able to regain an 11-point edge, but in the final moments of the third, Baukin ignited the crowd with a two-handed jam and Gillespie and Sunga each made two free throws moving UNBC within five at the third quarter break. Thimm tacked on three more for Saskatchewan and De Ciman, Dewar and Emmanuel Bonsu also found pay-dirt for the visitors.
An early bucket from Ledoux and the fourth third triple of the night for Chris Ross helped push UNBC within three in the early moments of the fourth. Thimm then responded with four more for the Huskies. Sunga’s ninth assist on the night came moments later when he found Ledoux in close, and then Ledoux struck again the next time down the floor, pushing the gap to only two. De Ciman momentarily silenced the UNBC crowd with an elbow three, restoring a two-possession lead for the visitors. One possession later Dewar hit a three making it an eight-point gap. That eight-point cushion would prove vital as the TWolves had one final push-back effort which got them to within one point. During the frantic final minutes, Hunter hit three separate shots – the last of which was a slick layup where he muscled his way through a pair of Huskies, getting UNBC to within one. A three from Dewar pushed Saskatchewan ahead by four, but Ledoux answered with a layup that came from Sunga’s 10th assist on the night, and with 41.6 seconds left, UNBC had the ball down two.
Looking to tie the score, Evgeny Baukin drove hard to the hoop, but his layup found a bit too rim. A three from Bonsu then ended the comeback bid with 11 seconds left, as Saskatchewan was able to celebrate their 11th victory of the season. The group of Thimm (21), Dewar (18), De Ciman (17) and Potoma (17) combined for 73 of Saskatchewan’s 91 points on the night.
UNBC’s statline included a 12-point, 10 assist effort from Sunga who matched the single-game UNBC men’s basketball assist record. The graduating trio of Ledoux (19), Ross (14) and Hunter (10) all found double digits.
Up next for UNBC – A trip to Manitoba for the Canada West men’s basketball playoffs which are scheduled for February 21 – 25, meaning that Chris Ross, Spencer Ledoux and Darren Hunter will suit up once again for the TWolves in 2024. More information regarding the first-round opponent and game time will be announced in the days to come.