Last second effort ends barn burner as Thunderbirds edge Heat

okanagan heat

January 26, 2013, KELOWNA, BCA David Wagner put back at the buzzer stunned a UBC Okanagan crowd who believed their team was about to pull off a major upset over the second ranked UBC Thunderbirds.

The Heat men’s basketball team allowed the T-Birds to slip away with a 63-61 victory Friday night in Kelowna.

An energized crowd fueled the Heat in a close fourth quarter, willing them to stay focused and not let the Thunderbirds pull away as players were making clutch plays and free throws left and right, including a tip-pass from third-year guard Anwar Faza (Ottawa, ON) that found rookie Mitch Goodwin (Kelowna, BC) open for a jumper that reclaimed a lead in the dying minutes of play. With the score tied 61-61 and the Heat looking for an overtime period or a chance at a final possession, Wagner’s shocker silenced the crowd and punctured the Heat’s emotional balloon.

“I’ve never had to complain this year about my team’s focus,” Heat head coach Pete Guarasci said postgame. “As far as how they come into practice and how they listen during walkthrough or shootaround, they’ve always been very focused in timeouts … everything. I’ve never had to complain and you saw that tonight.”

Defensive pressure kept the Vancouver squad on edge all game long, holding them to 21 points below their season average. What coach Guarasci called a “defensive show” resulted in twenty-two turnovers for the Thunderbirds, whose backcourt was continuously pestered while the frontcourt was denied entry passes and kept off the boards. The Heat outrebounded the larger Birds’ squad 37-31 and held their opponent to only five offensive boards and seven total second chance points.

“Really I think we just did a good job of guarding the ball tonight,” Guarasci said postgame. “We stayed in front of them and made it tough, and did a good job in the post making it difficult.”

“I think our guys just put on a defensive show. From our point guard to our five-man, everyone was moving their feet. We were hustling and we were battling. They were just so focused defensively. It was awesome for me to watch.”

Goodwin was named the Heat Player of the Game after netting a team-high tying 13 points while grabbing three rebounds and picking away two steals. Fourth-year guard Yassine Ghomari (Vancouver, BC) also put up 13 points while grabbing two boards and steals each.

Neither team had more than six assists, though the Heat still utilized great ball movement and dribble penetration to find their offensive touches. The home team got quality shots for most of the game and netted at a 33.3% clip. Scoring by committee, they had three players in double digits and four others with five or more points.

UBC Okanagan is now 2-14 for the season while Vancouver moves up to 13-2. The Thunderbirds have clinched a Canada West playoff berth.

Heat notes: The Heat’s Mitch Goodwin and the Thunderbirds’ Isaiah Solomon are familiar foes, having met last spring in the quarter-finals of the AAA Boys Provincial High School Championships. Goodwin is a local graduate from Kelowna Secondary while Thomas comes from Vancouver College. The Irish dispatched a formidable Owls squad with ambitions for the championship.

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