Timberwolves Howl Late To Victory
Western Mustangs Women's BasketballJohn Urban
With two close 3-point victories over the Trinity Western Spartans (56-53) and Fanshawe Falcons (46-43), the Western Mustangs women’s basketball team was looking to stay undefeated Friday evening when they hosted the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves from Alumni Hall. Despite being thousands of kilometers apart, this was not the first time these two schools had encountered each other on the hardwood. Back on October 14th, 2016 the Mustangs defeated the Timberwolves 63-56 in Waterloo, Ontario as part of the Naismith Classic.
Normally in post-secondary athletics in Canada, you might see the odd international student from across the world participate on a squad surrounded by local talent. UNBC does have 7 players from British Columbia, but also four from outside the country: Alina Shakirova (Moscow, Russia), Sierra Gallego (Avondale, Arizona), Maria Mongomo (Las Palmas, Spain) and Vasiliki Louka (Athens, Greece).
From opening tip-off you could tell the clear size and skill advantage possessed by UNBC’s Mongomo and Louka. Although Western worked an excellent game plan against their opposition’s stars, drawing three fouls out of Mongomo in the first quarter alone, it was still evident it was going to be a long day at the office for Western defence. Thanks to five different Mustangs though finding the scoresheet in the first quarter: Horst, Graham, Lawrence, Fisher and Larjava, they kept the game 12-12 after 10 minutes of play.
Vasiliki Louka would score 7 straight points from the first quarter into the second quarter, but her team would still find themselves tied 16-16 with 7:35 left in the opening half. With the score knotted up at 24 points each, Western would end the quarter on a 7-0 run to lead 31-24 at halftime. Guards Maddy Horst and Julia Curran led the home side with 9 and 8 points respectably in the half, with 7 different Mustangs finding the scoresheet. The real story of the first half though was Louka and Mongomo for the Timberwolves. The senior international stars combined for all 12 points their squad produced in the second quarter and were responsible for 18 of the 24 points in the half.
The Spanish veteran Mongomo only got better in the second half, nailing back to back three balls to cut Westerns lead down to 33-30 with 8:49 left in the third quarter. On the strength of Mongomo the Timberwolves would eventually take the lead 35-33, as a part of an 11-2 run to start the third frame. Maria Mongomo would end up scoring 20 points in just the third quarter alone, scoring UNBC’s first 14 of 17 points to start the second half, with an Emily Holmes three pointer breaking the streak. However, Western would round out the quarter with an 11-4 run of their own for a 56-49 lead going into the final quarter, large in part due to 15 points from Maddy Horst.
The depth of UNBC started to prevail in the fourth quarter, with adjustments in their strategy to feed their star players. Mustangs Guard Jade Codinera would drain a three-point shot with 4:05 left in the game to tie the contest up at 64-64, but that is as close as Western would get to a win. The Timberwolves would close out the game on a 10-0 run to claim victory in London, Ontario 74-64. Maria Mongomo was the clear player of the game with 38 points to lead all scorers on the evening, she was supported by 17 points from Prince George, BC native Emily Holmes and the ‘Greek Freak’ Vasiliki Louka with 14, as the three combined for 69 of the team’s 74 total points.
The ladies will now get a full week off from action following the loss, as they’ll host the Concordia Stingers at Alumni Hall next Friday night with a 6pm tip-off. They also play their final preseason game next Sunday morning against Head Coach Brain Cheng’s former team the Victoria Vikes in Burlington, Ontario before starting their regular season on the road in Guelph against the Gryphons on Wednesday, October 24th.