The UBC women’s basketball team’s playoff run kicked-off last night against the Lethbridge Pronghorns, a single game knockout match-up for a spot in the Canada West quarterfinals. As has come to be expecting against Lethbridge given the T-Birds season record against the Alberta side, UBC dominated play down the home stretch en route to a 77-73 victory.
Despite their history against Lethbridge, the ’Birds didn’t underestimate their opponents going into the play-in game.
“When we were in Lethbridge … the games were good battles and we were fortunate to get the wins there ... we knew we were going to have to battle for the forty minutes,” UBC head coach Deb Huband said post-game.
Both teams were strong defensively through the first quarter, but the Pronghorns would end up taking a slight lead into the second. UBC’s offence was largely kept to the outside, as they struggled to get the ball into the key. Though the T-Birds defence forced the Pronghorns’ offence to the perimeter as well, the visitor’s mid-range shots were falling well, giving them a 22-20 lead at the end of the frame.
The Thunderbirds were quick to answer in the second, opening with a three-pointer from rookie guard Dayna Pearce — the team wouldn’t look back from there. Through the rest of the frame, their inside game picked up and their bench played particularly well, outscoring Lethbridge’s bench 21-6 in the second quarter alone.
After some hot shooting on both sides through the first half, the third quarter started slow, with both teams going a combined 1 for 10 through the first four minutes. However, a long two from UBC guard Jessica Hanson would open the flood gates for her teammates, and the T-Birds would extend their lead to 12 by the end of the quarter.
Their success would continue through to the end of the game on the back of UBC forward Keylyn Filewich, who was a force in the paint all night and ended the game with a double-double. UBC clinched the win ahead by four at 77-73. For Filewich, her final tally would be 22 points for the evening.
“I think she has it in her, we saw that last year, but now I think she wants it a little bit more,” Huband said of Filewich and her dominant performance. “She understands what it’s all about and she’s developing and broadening her skill set to be more effective. Her game is growing and expanding.”
Huband was also pleased with the depth of her team and the strength of UBC's bench, which was instrumental in building their lead in the second quarter.
“It was an opportunity for some other players to step up to the challenge. We’ve seen glimpses of these things, we’ve been waiting for them to happen, so it was nice that when it was really needed in playoffs they were there.”
With the success the team found against Lethbridge, Huband has a positive outlook on taking her young team into a play-off run.
“We’re looking to be better every game, [play] a better team game offensively and defensively. We’re trying to improve our defence so it’s a little bit stingier, and a little bit smarter, we’re trying to get a little bit grittier and consistent on the boards. Offensively set some tempo and get into our flow,” she said. “So, those things are sometimes difficult with your opponent, but those are some of the keys to our success, and if we’re playing that way we’re usually playing well.”
The Thunderbirds continue their playoff run as they open their quarterfinal series next weekend. They await the result of the remaining play-in games to determine their next opponent.