Grayson Leahy, UBC Okanagan Heat
KELOWNA, BC - The UBC Okanagan Heat lost the season opener to the Trinity Western Spartans in the UBC Okanagan gymnasium on Friday night, by a final score of 68-61.
A point of focus in the game for UBC Okanagan Heat fans was fifth year guard Emily Kanester, who sat just 21 points away from the program's all-time scoring record coming into the 2016/17 season. She finished the game as the Heat's leading scorer on the night, with 14 points and now sits just seven points away from the record. Claire Elliott and Chloe Kennedy also finished in double digits, with 11 and 10 points respectively.
Tessa Retzlaff was the biggest performer for the Spartans in the game, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Kayla Gordon and Jessie Brown also had big games for Trinity Western, finishing with 16 points and five rebounds each.
The first quarter ended with Trinity Western up 24-18. The Spartans made eight of their 16 shots in the opening quarter, shooting 50% from the field. Fourth year Spartans forward Kayla Gordon led the visitors' offensively, scoring eight points and shooting 100% in the first ten minutes.
Kanester got the scoring started for the Heat, hitting a three-pointer for the first basket of the match, giving her team the lead and pulling within 18 points of UBC Okanagan women's program all-time scoring record. She finished the first quarter with seven points to lead the Heat in scoring early on. The three-point shot was the strength early for the Heat, as 12 of their first 13 points came from long range courtesy of Kanester, fifth year forward Chloe Kennedy, and fourth year forward Shenelle Tamminen.
The first half ended with the Heat in the lead, 37-34. UBC Okanagan pulled within one early in the second quarter, after a made free throw by fourth year Heat guard Claire Elliott made the score 24-23 for the Spartans with 7:27 left. Later in the quarter UBC Okanagan tied the game up twice, at 32-32 and at 34-34, each time after second year forward Jordan Korol made a layup in traffic. The Heat took the lead back, 35-34, thanks to a made free throw by Tamminen. Elliott made a mid-range jump shot with 26 seconds left on the clock to stretch the lead to 37-34 at end of the half.
With twenty minutes played, Kennedy led the Heat in scoring with eight points, and third year guard Jessie Brown led the Spartans with nine.
Fourth year Heat guard Olivia Johnson started the scoring in the second half, making a layup to give UBC Okanagan a 39-34 lead with just over thirty seconds played in the third quarter. Trinity Western tied the game up 39-39 with 6:40 left in the third quarter after a layup by Tessa Ratzlaff and a three-pointer from Brown just 20 seconds apart. Another layup from Ratzlaff gave the Spartans their first lead of the second half, 41-39, 15 seconds later (6:03 left).
The lead changed hands two more times in the third quarter, before the back-and-forth play left the Heat down by two, 49-47, with the fourth quarter left to go. Through the first three quarters Gordon, Brown, and Ratzlaff each had 12 points, with Ratzlaff earning 10 rebounds to lock up a double-double. Through thirty minutes Kanester was the leading scorer for the Heat with 10 points through three quarters.
With 7:20 left in the game Chloe Kennedy tied the game up at 51-51 with a layup in traffic before racing back on defence to break up a long Spartans pass, stopping what would have been an easy two points for Trinity Western.
Trinity Western started to pull away in the final minutes, after a layup by fifth year point guard Luca Schmidt put them up 59-54. Retzlaff scored the next five points for the Spartans, putting the visiting side up eight, 64-56, with just under three minutes left.
The Heat rallied late, pulling within five (66-61) with 1:51 to play, thanks to a pair of Kanester free throws and a three-pointer from Elliott. Another late Retzlaff layup put it away for the Spartans at 68-61 with 1:33 left, as for the final 90 seconds the Trinity defence shut down the Heat shooters.
With the loss, the UBC Okanagan Heat start their season 0-1, while the Trinity Western Spartans are now 1-0.
The two teams will play again tomorrow night, with tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m. PT, once again in the UBC Okanagan gymnasium.