Thunderbirds find cracks in Heat defense en route to victory

okanagan heat

January 27, 2013, Kelowna, BC (ISN) – Second-year Thunderbird post David Wagner got fed down low all night, his steady diet producing a double-double 24 points and 10 rebounds en route to a 81-66 win over the UBC Okanagan Heat Saturday night in Kelowna.

The win sweeps the weekend for the visiting Thunderbirds in Canada West basketball action in Kelowna.

Once again the Heat pushed themselves to the brink against the heavily favoured foe, drawing on the crowd and each other for the second straight night.

Fan support fuelled the team during their bout with their sister campus this weekend, according to Heat head coach Pete Guarasci: “I want to thank all the fan support. Last night was just incredible … to just have that much fan support. I know our guys performed and fed off the crowd. Really good fan support all weekend. If we can get that kind of fan support every home game … our guys love it, they feed off it, and I guarantee you that kind of support will end up every year with two or three extra wins just by having them there.”

The Thunderbirds managed to get great looks inside for Wagner and other forwards from great lob passes over the top of a smaller UBC Okanagan frontline, and slower rotations prevented the Heat from being able to challenge shots like they did the night before.

Senior guard Doug Plumb found his stroke tonight against the Heat, scoring 19 points while grabbing seven boards in the effort. The leader of UBC’s squad was very vocal with his team on the court and set an example coming out of halftime when the Thunderbirds went on a run to gain the lead and never look back.

“He’s one of their leaders,” Guarasci admitted postgame. “He knows that it’s his job to step up and perform on road trips when his team needs to win, and he did exactly that tonight.”

A multitude of effort and heart was laid out on the floor tonight by guards Mitch Goodwin (1st year, Kelowna, BC), and fourth years Yassine Ghomari and Dave Mackay, both Vancouverites refusing to lose to their hometown team. Ghomari and Mackay fouled out in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, but not before fighting tooth and nail every possession against a larger and stronger Thunderbirds squad.

“To have those guys compete and work that hard, and to help the program build a culture of competitiveness and how hard we’re going to fight, it’s just a luxury,” said Heat head coach Pete Guarasci of his mentioned starters after the game. “I’m very grateful for the way they compete. We look forward to getting that from everybody.”

Guarasci went on to acknowledge that he did feel proud of his entire team for the effort and energy they brought: “I think they competed their hearts out again. We knew from the get go that was going to be a tough go. UBC came out hard against us, but we didn’t back down. We played the whole game quite strong. It was tough to play with the same energy we had last night but I was proud with the way we competed tonight.”

Goodwin was named the Heat Player of the Game for the second straight night after scoring a team-high 20 points that included 4-8 from three-point range. Ghomari was able to score 13 points and pick away four steals before fouling out, and both he and Goodwin combined to sink 12-13 free-throws for the night.

With the victory, the UBC Thunderbirds improve to 14-2 for the season. Next weekend they are back home to host the Mount Royal University Cougars. Meanwhile, the Heat move to 2-15 and will host the University of Fraser Valley Cascades next weekend in search for win number three. Tip-off for the Heat on Friday will be at 8pm.