Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wolves Drown Lakers

By Andrew Bailey
Sports and Clubs Editor

After earning a bye during the first round of the playoffs, the UNBC Timberwolves faced off against the UBC-Okanagan Lakers in the second round on Friday, February 29th. The Lakers had made it to this semi final game by dominating Langara College 47-31 the previous day. A huge crowd was in attendance to witness the highly anticipated matchup, including many younger students from local middle schools, as well as a few members of the super-fans clad in their usual green and gold uber-spirited attire. The Lakers also had fans in attendance, which I noticed when there was a roar from the crowd on the other side of the gym after the first Lakers basket, and also a huge “Go Lakers” sign in the audience. It all equaled out to be an incredibly loud, tremendously exciting playoff basketball atmosphere.
The Lakers immediately showed the crowd why they had made it to the semi finals by starting off with an incredibly fast paced and very tough style of basketball. However, all the quickness and toughness in the world cannot, and did not, contain T-Wolf forward Laurel Wallace’s undeniable scoring capabilities and precision from the suburbs, (beyond the perimeter) nailing three pointers and drawing fouls despite an incredibly disciplined and well-coached Laker defense. The first quarter ended with a tremendous steal by T-Wolf guard Jaclyn Nazareno that led to an open layup putting the score at 17-11 in UNBC’s favour.
I missed the first five minutes of the second quarter because my hung-over state required me to grab a coffee from the concession, an act which proved to be way harder than I had originally perceived as hordes upon hordes of middle school students were clumped around the concession screaming nonsense to each other. Somehow, the score became 27-23 in my absence with UNBC still in the lead. The Lakers had not lost any of their first quarter toughness or fatigued in any way as they continued to play a very tight, physical style of defense. Despite being defended by the tremendous 6 -foot frame of Laker Forward Meghan McGill, Soili Smith (5’9”) played a tremendously impressive second quarter highlighted by nailing a butter smooth turn-around jumper from 8 feet out and continuously dominating the offensive paint. This helped UNBC leave the half with a considerable 35-29 lead.
Lakers coach, Heather Semeniuk must have given a pretty Tony D’Amato like speech (see “Any Given Sunday”) to her players during the half time break, because her team came out incredibly strong in the third quarter. Owning the offensive boards, Laker players were able to take 2-3 shots a possession allowing them to chip away at the T-Wolf lead. On the defensive side the Lakers were able to steal the ball away from UNBC players repeatedly and soon found themselves actually leading in the game for the first time by a score of 36-35. This lead did not last long however as Carlye Hicks, visibly frustrated by her quiet first half, drew a foul and hit both baskets to give the lead back to the T-Wolves. Hicks then came up with a huge steal and drew another foul and hit 1 of the 2 shots giving UNBC the lead by three points. The score then jumped back and forth with the lead flip-flopping from team to team until the Lakers were able to string together a few solid possessions and close out the quarter up by four with the score 48-44 in Laker favour.
The fourth quarter started, as many quarters have started with the Timberwolves this year, with Laurel Wallace nailing a three pointer. This brought the Laker lead down to one and energized the home crowd which was beginning to get extremely rowdy and anxious with their team down in a must win game. The Lakers never let up and their stamina seemed un-wilting as they played with tremendous hustle in a fast pace game that at one point saw Laker guard Kim Whelpton take out a sponsor sign and fly into the crowd after going hard for a steal. Finally, with 5 minutes left in the fourth and final quarter and down by five points, the UNBC Timberwolves remembered that they were playing at home, and that they never lose at home, and they began to completely dominate the baffled Lakers taking back the lead and never losing it again finishing with a 62-56 victory. Wallace was a huge factor in the fourth quarter comeback and caused the crowd to completely erupt by hitting the go-ahead basket. Carlye Hicks and Jaclyn Nazareno also had very strong performances during the quarter as they lead the T-Wolves into the gold medal game on Saturday. Laurel Wallace was named player of the game.

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