A playoff spot wasn't on the line for either team, but pride and bragging rights certainly were.
The UNBC Timberwolves and Mount Royal University Cougars -- both first-year entries in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association -- squared off Friday night at the Northern Sport Centre. And the T-wolves, despite a long stretch of poor play, pulled out a 71-66 victory when they cranked up their game in the last seven minutes.
"We struggled, but to turn around and then play with so much confidence down the stretch was really, really nice to see," said UNBC coach Loralyn Murdoch. "That's the team that I know, the one that plays at home with confidence down the stretch."
With a couple minutes gone in the fourth quarter, UNBC was down 58-51. The T-wolves fell into that hole by playing with a lack of composure offensively and defensively for much of the second and third quarters. Turnovers were killing them and they weren't attacking on offence. But, a baseline three-pointer by guard Jordyn Rabbitt seemed to get them back on track.
Later, with 2:37 left, guard Jennifer Bruce drilled her own three-ball from the baseline and the Timberwolves were suddenly down just 66-63. On UNBC's next possession, Bruce hit a pair of free-throws and that was followed by a sweet dish from Mercedes Van Koughnett to Sarah Robin for another bucket. The Timberwolves had the lead, 67-66, and didn't trail again. They made a great defensive stand and got a total of four more free throws from Bruce. Before Bruce's last couple of freebies, a potential game-tying three-point shot by Mount Royal's Hilary Annich rattled around the rim and out.
Bruce, a fourth-year player, was happy to see her team bounce back and get the win.
"We had to get our momentum back up," she said. "We have a rivalry [with the Cougars], even from [the] college [league]. This game was big. They [the Cougars] were calling it the Super Bowl."
Bruce finished with 12 points, while Van Koughnett led the way with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Annich had 11 points for the Cougars. Danica Rybachuk, sister of UNBC men's player Joel Rybachuk, contributed eight points for Mount Royal.
"Those kids worked really hard," Murdoch said of the Cougars. "They took it at us for those two quarters. They're definitely a rival because we're in the same situation [as new teams in Canada West] and we really want to play well to finish off the year."
Both teams entered the night on six-game losing streaks. With the result, UNBC improved to 7-14 and Mount Royal dropped to 5-16.
Tonight, the Timberwolves will be on the NSC court for the last time this season. They'll tip off against the Cougars at 6 p.m. The game will be the last in the career of fifth-year UNBC forward Kady Dandeneau.
Mount Royal shooters sink UNBC men
The Mount Royal University Cougars extended the misery of the UNBC Timberwolves.
Friday night at the Northern Sport Centre, the Calgary-based Cougars handed the UNBC men's basketball team a 99-91 loss. The T-wolves, with just one game left in their first Canada West season, have now dropped 11 in a row.
The Cougars, also a first-year team in the league, took a 64-62 lead into the fourth quarter and tilted the contest in their favour when they drained a trio of three-pointers midway through the quarter. A pair of shots by Aloysius Callaghan fell and so did one by Nick Loewen. Mount Royal continued its hot shooting down the stretch, while UNBC struggled to get a defensive stop. In the last 10 minutes, the Cougars outscored the home side 35-29.
Callaghan and Loewen both finished with 26 points. Sam Raphael, Joel Rybachuk and Charles Barton scored 20 each for the Timberwolves.
The T-wolves and Cougars now have matching 5-16 records. They'll meet again tonight (8 p.m.) at the NSC. The contest will mark the end of the careers of four UNBC players -- Raphael, Rybachuk, Francis Rowe and Jose Araujo.