Aaron Martin/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER -- On 'School Day', the UBC Thunderbirds women's basketball team (11-4) gave more than 1,200 elementary school kids packed into War Memorial Gym something to cheer about, as they rolled to an 80-53 win over the Brandon Bobcats (7-10).
Maddison Penn notched 19 points on 6-of-17 shooting to lead the 'Birds in scoring, while rookie forward Keylyn Filewich was the most efficient player on the floor, posting a career-high 18 points (8-of-10) and six boards. Shilpa Khanna was deadly from distance, going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc en route to 14 points, providing some secondary scoring.
"I thought we both teams came out flying offensively early, and that was exciting basketball for the crowd that was here," said UBC head coach Deb Huband, who earlier this week was named to the BC Basketball Hall of Fame. "We wanted to lock down more on defence, and I think we did that. Once we got the lead, I think we did a great job of sustaining it and not letting them back in it."
The 'Birds came out full throttle at tip-off, opening the game on a 7-0 run to take control early. A collection of dynamic cuts and some terrific passing inside opened up the perimeter, and UBC took full advantage, collectively going 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in the first 10 minutes.
Penn had nine in the quarter, while Khanna knocked down a pair of triples for her six points. Outside of those two, sophomore Jessica Hanson and rookie guard Ali Norris also got in on the action from downtown.
On the other side, junior college transfer Keisha Cox single handedly kept the Bobcats afloat in the first quarter. The Californian notched 13 points in the quarter, hitting 3-of-4 from distance, but her Bobcats trailed the 'Birds 31-20 heading into the second.
Both teams cooled off in the second, as the defences on both sides stepped up in a big way after the high-flying first quarter. While the 'Birds posted just 12 points in the frame, a combined 10 of which came from Filewich and Hanson, they also held the Bobcats to just 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. After her dominant first quarter, Cox was held in check, as she went just 1-of-5 for two points in the second.
By halftime, the 'Birds still held a comfortable 43-30 lead.
Up 46-36 three minutes into the third quarter, the 'Birds reeled off a 12-0 run to give themselves even more breathing room. That stretch saw the T-Birds dominate inside, with Filewich and fellow forwards Kara Spotton and Andrea Strujic all picking up some hard-earned buckets.
That 22-point advantage held firm heading into the final stanza, with the Thunderbirds out in front 63-41. That flexibility allowed Huband to roll her lineup a bit, as no 'Bird finished with less five minutes of floor time or more than 24.
In the face of the Bobcats' attempted comeback, the T-Birds' depth held strong, as the home side cruised to the 80-53 win to the delight of the cheering kids in the stands.
With game one of the back-to-back set wrapped up, the 'Birds will now turn their focus to the rematch. The T-Birds and Bobcats will again square off in War Memorial Gym tomorrow night, with tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m. (PT).
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds