Close, but not close enough as women’s basketball comes up short at Courtside

After facing a marginal 74-76 defeat on Thursday against the University of Victoria (UVic) Vikes, the UBC women’s basketball team returned home on Friday for a rematch — this time, on their home court for Courtside.

Though they would ultimately be beaten once again by the now third-ranked Vikes, this time with a final score of 77-73, the game exemplified the team’s potential to compete against the league heavy hitters — going into a playoff run starting next weekend, the team shows promise.

“We’re playing better basketball than we did earlier in the year...,” UBC head coach Deb Huband said post-game. “We’ll see what we can do in the post-season starting next week.”

“They’re tough, gritty games and [these are] our 19th and 20th games — the last games of our regular season — so we [knew] it was going to be tough and exciting and come down to the wire. It’s a good learning experience for us for sure going forward," third-year Jessica Hanson said.

Out the gate, UBC took advantage of the Vikes' slow defensive start, with Keylyn Filewich sinking a lay-up in the first 45 seconds of the game. She would be swiftly followed by a pair of Jessica Hanson three-pointers to put the ’Birds ahead 8-2. In the latter half of the quarter, though, the visiting Vikes upped their game, and evened up the game at 16-16 with a three-pointer from Haily Weaver — taking the quarter in their own hands from there. Though UBC’s Ali Norris would bring the crowd back to life with an end-to-end buzzer beating layup, they would still end the frame one point down at 19-18.

It would end up being a frame of missed chance for the T-Birds; though they had their golden moments, a plethora of missed jump shots and layups set them a step behind early on.

UVic's Calli McMillan protects the ball from Ali Norris.
UVic's Calli McMillan protects the ball from Ali Norris. Jeremy Johnson-Silvers

In the second, UVic’s Amira Giannattasio and Calli McMillan were an annoyance for the Thunderbirds, using their speed to take on the sluggish UBC defence. Through the first half, Giannattasio would score an impressive 16 points for the visiting side, with McMillan following close behind with seven. That said, Hanson would sink three three-pointers for the 'Birds before the half, keeping them within closing distance — her basket with just under two minutes left in the second once again regained the faith of the War Memorial crowd.

At the half-time buzzer, the T-Birds were behind 31-40.

“Just our team defense struggled a little bit there, [UVic] were running a lot of ball screen action. They weren’t hurting us as much on the people directly involved in the ball screen but the people off-ball,” Huband said of the second quarter. “I think they also won a lot of the loose ball battles, the long rebound battles and we seemed to be a step behind in the first half which put us behind the eight ball a little bit.”

Hanson would prove the game changer for the Thunderbirds in the third quarter, coming up with five scoring plays for the home team to help them get back up to par with the Vikes. A final jump shot at the end of the third by the third-year guard would bring UBC within two points of Victoria going into the fourth, with the scoreline sitting at 55-53.

Keylyn Filewich storms the basket.
Keylyn Filewich storms the basket. Elizabeth Wang

In the final frame, the T-Birds took their final lead of the game at 58-55, as Maddison Penn put away both a layup and a free throw. But, the continued pressure from the Vikes would be enough to breakdown the home team in front of the Courtside crowd. With desperation creeping in, UBC started throwing all they could at the basket from three-point range. They would only manage to get within four points of the visitors, as the final buzzer went with the Vikes ahead 77-73.

With the loss, the women’s team settle for a 10-10 record in Canada West. Going into post-season, Hanson said the UVic double-header is just a stepping stone towards the teams end goal.

“I think these we’re great games for us especially going in to playoffs, but I think we still have yet to play our best basketball...," she said. "I think we’ll be bringing it for playoffs and definitely beyond.”

Playoffs begin next weekend, with the T-Birds game-time still to be determined.