When they played at the B.C. college level, the UNBC Timberwolves rarely allowed an opponent to step onto their floor and leave later in the night with a victory in their pocket.
In their first-ever home game in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association, the Timberwolves defended their territory with just as much passion.
Friday night at the Northern Sport Centre, the T-wolves fought from behind in the fourth quarter and beat the Trinity Western University Spartans of Langley 74-67. In the last quarter, UNBC outscored the visitors 29-16, much to the delight of about 1,300 fans.
"A lot of us have experience in this gym and we know that whoever comes in, it's going to be a fight and we take home-court advantage seriously," said fourth-year guard/forward Mercedes Van Koughnett, who finished with 13 points, a team-high 16 rebounds and five assists.
"It felt great to win," she added. "It was almost as good as winning provincials [last year]. It's the start of a new beginning, I guess."
Going into the fourth, the T-wolves trailed 51-45. With seven minutes left on the clock, they had pulled into a 56-56 tie. After a couple of quick buckets by the Spartans, UNBC responded with an inside hoop by Emily Kaehn and a couple of free throws by Sarah Robin and the game was tied 60-60.
The rest of the way, the T-wolves remained aggressive on offence and got some key stops on defence. Led by Kaehn, Robin and Van Koughnett, they outscored the Spartans 14-7 down the stretch.
Kaehn finished the game with 17 points, as did fifth-year guard/forward Kady Dandeneau, who had just five in the first half but was a force in the second and a big part of the comeback.
"Kady Dandeneau did a great job getting us back in the game," Van Koughnett said. "She made all those shots and got us going on defence."
Robin, a third-year forward, collected 10 points for UNBC, so the Timberwolves had four players in double digits.
"It was great to see everyone put some points on the board," Kaehn said. "Our rookies came in and they also did really well. They worked really hard and scored some points so that was really great too."
The Timberwolves won despite the fact they turned the ball over 32 times and gave up 27 points off those miscues.
The T-wolves played the game one day after head coach Loralyn Murdoch's father passed away. Murdoch was patrolling the sidelines during the contest, and her players wanted to do all they could to win for her.
"I think that was a big part," Van Koughnett said. "We wanted to work as hard as we could for coach. It was a hard night for her. We felt bad and we wanted to bring that energy and make it positive."
The Spartans led 32-26 after a scrambly first half. The T-wolves were up 11-10 after the first quarter but the Spartans outscored their hosts 22-15 in the second.
In the game, fourth-year forward Holly Strom paced the Spartans with 24 points.
The UNBC and Trinity Western men's teams took to the court later in the night and the game was still in progress at The Citizen's press deadline. In front of about 1,800 rowdy spectators, the Timberwolves came out flying and led the Spartans 36-14 after the first quarter and 54-34 at the half.
The UNBC and Trinity teams will meet again tonight at the NSC. The women's game will start at 6 p.m. and the men will be on the hardwood at 8 p.m.