MBB: Timberwolves secure first ever Canada West playoff berth after upset over Cascades
PRINCE GEORGE, BC – The UNBC men’s basketball team made history Saturday night after a 69-57 win over the UFV Cascades secured them a berth to the post-season, the first in UNBC history since joining the Canada West. The Timberwolves win moves them to 10-8 on the season while the Cascades earn their second loss of the year and sit at 16-2.
The Timberwolves starting five were a massive contribution to UNBC’s win. Fifth year forwards Devin McMurtry (Surrey, BC) and Franco Kouagnia (Yaounde, CMR) both hit double-doubles, Kouagnia with 17 points and 12 rebounds, and McMurtry with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Guards Rhys Elliott (Adelaide, AUS) and Billy Cheng (Richmond, BC) were in double-digits with 14 and 10 respectively.
The Cascades were led by fifth year forward Kadeem Willis (Toronto, ON). Willis was a constant presence with 19 points and seven rebounds. Vijay Dhillon (Richmond, BC) chipped in 10 points while Kevon Parchment (Toronto, ON) added eight points and 10 rebounds.
The first quarter was tight with four lead changes and neither team leading by more than two baskets at anyone time. The Cascades were able to hedge out a lead due to sharp shooting from behind the arc and capitalizing on the Timberwolves mistakes. At the end of the first the Cascades held a narrow 21-19 lead over the Timberwolves.
A low scoring second quarter for both sides kept the game close. With just over six minutes left in the half Timberwolves bigman Kouagnia was able to draw an offensive foul on UFV’s Moedt, this was Moedt’s third foul and put him out for the remainder of the first half. With Moedt on the bench the Timberwolves battled basket for basket for the Cascades. At 2:13 Kouagnia tied the game at 28 after making good on a shot from the charity stripe but Willis answered back with a three to put the Cascades up 31-28. The Timberwolves would sink one more bucket before the end of the quarter, at half the Cascades led 31-30.
The Timberwolves found their stride in the third and were able to narrowly outscore the Cascades 22-19. Kouagnia was big for the Twolves netting seven of his 17 points in the third quarter, two of which came from the foul line with a minute to play. After the fifth and disqualifying foul was called on Navjot Bains (Delta, BC) of the Cascades, Kouagnia went to the line and sank both his shots. Up 52-47 with under 20 seconds to play it looked liked the Timberwolves were going to hold a a decent lead heading into the final 10 minutes until Dhillon came down the court and hit a pull-up three to bring the game back within two points.
The fourth quarter is where the Timberwolves pulled ahead, holding the Cascades to only seven points in the final 10 minutes. The Twolves were constant in their work rate, pushing the ball and forcing the Cascades to play catch-up. Kougania opened with a bucket down-low but again Willis answered with a three ball to bring the game within one. A shot-clock violation called on the Cascades appeared to be the stop the Timberwolves need to gain a foothold, until less than a minute later Willis stole the ball and threw down a dunk to let UNBC know they weren’t done yet. With 2:30 left in the game Rhys Elliott hit a long three to give the Timberwolves a 65-57 lead. Still plenty of time left on the clock and only an eight point game the Cascades continued to push the ball. A huge block from Kouagnia put the UNBC crowd on their feet. Devin McMurtry laid in a bucket to put the Timberwolves up 10, then drew an offensive foul a just past centre court, forcing a UFV timeout. After two big stops, the Timberwolves came out of the timeout collected and ready to finish the game. The Cascades were unable to convert in the final minute, giving the Timebrwolves a 69-57 win. The win secures the Timberwolves their first ever playoff berth in Canada West history.
In front of 900 Timberwolves fans, Franco Kouagnia, Jeff Chu, and Devin McMurtry all played their final home games while simultaneously making UNBC history.
The UNBC Timberwolves travel to UBC Okanagan next weekend to play the Heat Thursday, February 12 and Friday, February 13.
The UFV Cascades return home to host the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack in the final games of the regular season.