A couple of close losses at home to the University of Alberta Pandas made for a premature end to the UBC women’s basketball season, as a 66-62 defeat on Friday night and a 67-64 loss in overtime on Saturday made Alberta the winner of the teams’ first-round playoff series. It was revenge for the Pandas, as it was the T-Birds who ended their season in the first round last year.
Both games were back-and-forth affairs, with the two teams trading leads throughout the contests. UBC held numerous leads of over eight points in each game, but weren’t able to extend the leads and allowed Alberta to claw back into the games. The end result was the Pandas being up near the end, and the T-Birds not being able to complete any late comeback attempts.
Friday’s game was one marred by poor free throw shooting. The ‘Birds shot a mere five of 14 from the charity stripe, a sore spot that became all the more noticeable after the four-point loss. On the other hand, Alberta was 14-20 from the line and was clutch down the stretch.
The Pandas were also deadly from beyond the arc. They were six of 11 from three-point land, and used the barrage of threes to overcome an eight point UBC lead in the third quarter.
“It was a game of runs — we’d go up and then they’d catch up, we’d go up again and then they’d catch up — and then they went up a bit,” said UBC head coach Deb Huband. “There were just some key times where we just didn’t execute; we couldn’t communicate on the floor. We took some possessions away from ourselves which really hurt.”
UBC saw strong performances from their starters; Kris Young lead the way with 19 points. Leigh Stansfield added 13, while Victoria Spangehl recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 boards. However, the T-Birds’ bench was outscored 24-2.
Young and Stansfield were also standout performers on Saturday night, but their stats weren’t enough to top the balanced scoring effort from Alberta. Young had a season-high 29 points in the loss, while Stansfield added 14 and eight rebounds during her last game as a Thunderbird. Zana Williams was also a spark off the bench, making several key defensive plays and hitting a clutch three-pointer to send the game to overtime and briefly extend her team’s season.
With only one fifth-year and one fourth-year on the roster, the T-Birds were a young team that had been riding their youthful energy into the playoffs. But on Saturday night, it was clear that they still have a bit more to learn, and the experience of the Alberta squad was evident.
“I just thought that down the stretch we got outplayed,” said Huband. “They’ve a veteran team, and their veterans stepped up…. We had a rebound, and if we got that rebound at the end of regulation the game was ours, but we didn’t [get it]. We’re a young team,… so I thought our girls battled really hard and they tried to step up, but I think just down the stretch they were playing better than we were and were deserving of the win.”
The roster from last year’s team that came second in the country looked much different this season, as three starters had left the squad. But of this year’s young team, only one player will be graduating, and that means the returners will be able to build off of this experience in the future.
“Hopefully there will be a lot of motivation to work in the off-season. I think when rookies come in they have no idea what they’re up against, and we have a lot of rookies and second-year kids,” said Huband. “We put a lot of demands on our second-year kids, and it was a tremendous growth year for them and the rookies. I hope that they find that this feeling is something they want to avoid in the future, and is very motivating in the offseason.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and after a little break, we want to get down and get better.”