No. 2 T-Birds win defensive battle, off to final

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UBC Thunderbirds

SEMIFINAL #1: CIS women’s basketball championship

CALGARY (ISN) – With a spot in the CIS women’s basketball final in the balance, Kristen Hughes and the UBC Thunderbirds came out on top of a back-and-forth game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees, prevailing 59-51 in Sunday evening’s first Final 8 semifinal at the University of Calgary’s Jack Simpson Gym.

Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wbkb/index 

With just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Hughes, a fourth-year veteran from North Vancouver, nailed two threes in the span of 43 seconds, the second of which put the Thunderbirds up for good in an otherwise tight second half.

The Gee-Gees couldn’t convert in the waning minutes of the game after being up 47-42 with 6:25 to play. UBC ended the game on a 17-4 run, sparked largely by the timely shots from Hughes and solidified by confident foul shooting from Zara Huntley and Alexandra Vieweg.

Second-seeded and Canada West champion UBC now awaits its opponent for Monday’s national championship game – either No. 4 Windsor or No. 8 Calgary – for the right to hoist the Bronze Baby trophy. Game time is at 7 p.m. Mountain, live on Shaw TV, NBA TV Canada and ssncanada.ca.

With the loss, the No. 3 and OUA champion Gee-Gees will face the loser of the second semifinal between the Lancers and the host Dinos.

Thunderbirds head coach Deb Huband was poised and confident after the big victory.

“The girls really stepped up in the fourth quarter,” said Huband, in her 17th year at the helm of UBC. “We got really gritty defensively, limited their scoring and got some threes to fall.

“The belief factor was there today; that was a tough opponent and thankfully we were able to get it going.”

First-team Canada West all-star Huntley led the way for the Thunderbirds, notching a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Kristjana Young led all scorers with 17 – 11 of those coming in the first half.

The low scoring 59-51 defensive battle was no surprise on Sunday, as the match featured the two stingiest teams in the country this season. Ottawa led all CIS teams, allowing only 51.0 points per game while UBC ranked first in Canada West and fifth in CIS, giving up only 57.4.

UBC outshot the Gee-Gees significantly from the floor, hitting at a 42 per cent clip compared to Ottawa’s 28. The Gee-Gees’ three OUA All-Stars, Hannah Sunley-Paisley, Bess Lennox and Jenna Gilbert were a combined 11 for 41 from the floor, and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm all game.

Sunley-Paisley, the 2012 Nan Copp Award winner as CIS MVP, certainly made her presence felt on the glass, grabbing an outstanding 17 rebounds to go along with nine points. Lennox was the only Gee-Gee to find double figures, getting to 11 points.

Ottawa Head Coach Andy Sparks gave full credit to UBC in defeat.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight out there today, and it was,” said Sparks, the OUA Coach of the Year. “Ultimately, the fourth quarter hurt us – we got good looks for our fourth and fifth years but they just wouldn’t fall.

“They have an outstanding team and regardless of what happens in the next game, it will be a great national final.”

UBC was last in the national championship game in 2008, when they ended up conquering Regina 67-46 for the Bronze Baby. They have reached the national final in four of their last five CIS championship appearances, also winning gold in 2006 and 2004, and are 6-1 all time in the final game.

The Ottawa Gee-Gees will battle for bronze on Monday, but are assured their best finish in program history. The Gee-Gees had never made the CIS semifinal prior to Sunday.

STAT LEADERS

Boxscore: UBC-Ottawa

Scoring by quarter:

UBC 12-20-8-19: 59

OTT 17-13-14-7: 51

UBC

Points: Kris Young (17), Zara Huntley (14), Alexandra Vieweg (9)

Rebounds: Zara Huntley (10), Alexandra Vieweg (8)

Assists: Kris Young (5)

Player of the game: Kris Young

Ottawa

Points: Bess Lennox (11), Jenna Gilbert (9), Hannah Sunley-Paisley (9)

Rebounds: Hannah Sunley-Paisley (17), Bess Lennox (9)

Assists: Kellie Ring (4)

Player of the game: Bess Lennox

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