Rich Abney, UNBC
January 6, 2017 -
In a game that saw some tremendous shooting from long-range, it was ultimately won and lost at the free-throw line. The UNBC Timberwolves narrowly held on to beat the UBCO Heat 87-81 on Saturday night, completing the sweep at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.
With the game sitting at 82-81 in favour of UNBC with just 18 seconds to play, the TWolves made a pair of free throws, the Heat missed a trio, and the Timberwolves sealed it with three more converts from the charity stripe.
The first quarter was a feeling-out period for both teams, with some missed opportunities at both ends of the court. Ultimately it was the Timberwolves pulling away to lead it 20-13 through then minutes.
In the second quarter, both offenses got in their respective grooves and started created offensively. Vova Pluzhnikov, Anthony Hokanson, and Marcus MacKay were deadly for the Timberwolves, while Triston Matthews and Jacob Stokker were answering at every possession for the Heat. At halftime, the home side held a 50-37 advantage, fueled by a 30-24 second stanza, and 14 points from Pluzhnikov.
"A good start is huge. You have to help the team start well," said Pluzhnikov postgame. "I am trying to be as aggressive as possible, and raise the bar for the whole team."
With the TWolves holding an 11-point lead heading into the fourth, UBCO started to chip away. Stokker would finish the game five-for-seven from long range, including some tough makes late in the game.
However, after being fouled on a three-point attempt with eleven seconds left, and a chance to tie the game, the first-year was unable to convert on his attempts.
"I was hitting the tough ones, but missing the easy ones. Those free throws should have been easy buckets, and that's the game right there."
UNBC sealed the game with three more free-throws, and escaped to improve their record to 6-8. With the defeat, the Heat drop to 2-10.
Hokanson led the way for UNBC offensively, dropping 20 points and adding six rebounds, while MacKay and Pluzhnikov poured in 18 and 16 respectively.
Matthews paced the Heat with 28, while Stokker added 20 of his own in the loss.
"These could have been W's, which makes it a lot tougher to make playoffs," said Stokker. "The future holds a lot of potential for us, so practicing good habits now will lead to lots of good things down the line."
The TWolves now prepare for a big weekend, where they'll visit the Brandon Bobcats.
"It's huge. If we win a couple more games, we control our destiny," said Pluzhnikov. "we have to keep working on our game, because we could even end up number five or number six. We just have to continue winning games."