First game, first victory.
And in a comeback, to boot.
For the UNBC Timberwolves women's basketball team, life at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level began in memorable and positive fashion Friday in Waterloo, Ont. Playing in the 45th annual Naismith Classic exhibition tournament, the Timberwolves beat the Cape Breton University Capers 62-57.
In the fourth quarter, UNBC outscored Cape Breton 16-2. The T-wolves took their first lead with three minutes left on the clock and held off the Capers for the win.
"We're still a long ways from being where we need to be, but it's very good for their confidence to know that they competed against girls that play in the CIS," said UNBC head coach Loralyn Murdoch, who is preparing her team for its first season in the Canada West conference of the CIS. "We were down the entire game, down nine going into the fourth quarter and we won. It really showed that all those years we played at the college level were still beneficial and that the types of situations we've been in are still going to be helpful at this level."
The Timberwolves, champions in the PACWEST provincial college league last season, were led offensively on Friday by their veterans. Mercedes Van Koughnett, a fourth-year guard/forward, scored 15 points and also had 11 rebounds and seven assists. Fourth-year forward Emily Kaehn added 13 points, as did fourth-year guard Jennifer Bruce.
"We showed a lot of heart," said Van Koughnett, a Prince George product who played her high school basketball at Duchess Park. "We were down by 10 at half so we dug ourselves a little hole and it was a huge accomplishment to come back. In the second half we picked up our defensive intensity and started making our shots. Everybody just started clicking more and got the jitters out."
During the half-time break, Murdoch had a chat with her players and they responded accordingly.
"We talked at half about how we were a better team than they were," she said. "We had to get back to our game plan. We needed to run, we needed to not turn the ball over and really get some defensive stops and start pushing the ball, which we did. In the fourth quarter we ran the ball much better and at the end of the day it turned out that we were in a little better shape than they were."
Murdoch said Cape Breton was a relatively young team.
Today, the T-wolves will tip off against the host University of Waterloo Warriors. On Sunday, UNBC will take on the Concordia University Stingers.