Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - The University of Alberta Pandas earned a gritty 1-0 series lead over the UBC Thunderbirds in their best of three Canada West quarter-final series, beating the visiting 'Birds 62-58 Thursday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Fifth-year guard Maddie Rogers finished with a game-high 14 points on 6/21 shooting, also chipping in three rebounds and two assists. Fellow senior guard Shay Crisp added 11 points for the Pandas, shooting 3/6 from beyond the three-point line.
Jessica Hanson and Keylyn Filewich led the Thunderbirds with 11 points each, while Kara Spotton added 10 on 4/7 shooting on Thursday.
Despite the playoff matchup regarded as one of the best in Canada West this weekend, pitting the fourth and fifth ranked teams in the conference, Thursday's game was anything but smooth, with the teams combining for a staggering 51 turnovers and just 18 assists.
The No. 5 Thunderbirds actually outshot the Pandas on Thursday (39% to 36%), but their 27 turnovers ruined their decent shooting effort.
UBC committed just six first-quarter turnovers, holding a slight 14-11 lead after one. Hanson scored five of her 11 in the first, with Susan Thompson making both of her mid-range jumpers in the quarter. The visitors also capitalized on the Pandas shooting just 4/14 to start the game, compared to the Thunderbirds 56%.
Alberta slowly started to find their offensive rhythm in the second, improving their shooting percentage by nearly 30 points. Rogers put in eight of her 14 in the second quarter alone, while Megan Tywoniuk added all six of her points in the second. Up by as much as four, the Pandas held on to their lead, 32-31 at half.
The UBC giveaways really started to take their tole in the third, as the Thunderbirds committed 22 turnovers by the end of the third. The Pandas, the beneficiaries of all the free balls, took advantage with 24 points off turnovers in the win. Another tightly contested quarter saw the Pandas lead 51-47.
Neither team was able to clean up their ball control in the fourth, with another 12 giveaways committed by the two teams. Alberta got four points each from Crisp and Aimee Wilson, taking a 59-55 lead late in the fourth. UBC was forced to foul late in the game, but two offensive rebounds by Elle Hendershot, who finished with nine, iced the Game 1 win for Alberta.
The Pandas will aim for the series sweep tomorrow night, as Game 2 is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. start time at Saville Community Sports Centre.