Heat narrowly miss upset of playoff seeking T-Birds

Okanagan heat-logo-just-H

by Cary Mellon

February 8, 2014, VANCOUVER, BC (ISN) – After hanging tough with the fifth-seeded UBC Thunderbirds in the Pacific through three and a half quarters, the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s basketball squad could not recover a late third quarter deficit in time and ultimately fell in a 68-59 result in Vancouver.

The contest was the sixth time this season that the Heat held an opponent under 70 points. They have held opponents to 75 points on average for the season.

“We were pretty amped up and we all came to play, but those few possessions with mental lapses and missed shots killed us,” said fifth-year Heat guard Yassine Ghomari (Vancouver, BC).

The Heat found most of their success for the evening behind a strong defensive showing through three quarters, paired with their excellent free-throw shooting as they went 14-16 from the line in the opening half. Down six with just two minutes left in the second quarter, a couple of opportunistic steals and otherwise good defensive stops allowed the Heat to score some transition baskets.

Tommy Nixon was foundational to the Thunderbirds’ late charge in the third quarter, as he recorded a double-double just five minutes in the second half. A 13-0 run lead to a 57-44 lead for Vancouver heading into the final ten minutes.

After providing a much needed defensive presence in the middle, Heat center Stuart Wallensteen (Nanaimo, BC) found himself in some serious foul trouble from late in the third quarter on. Still, the Heat dug deep and found ways to crash the boards and force turnovers effectively to turn the tide and make the Thunderbirds uncomfortable.

“That definitely hurt,” said Ghomari of Wallensteen’s foul trouble. “The few times we did end up going to him down low we got good looks but he couldn’t stay in the game.”

A 9-2 run over a 3:20 span leading into the final two minutes of play made things interesting for the Heat who found themselves down only seven points by that point. The run was largely fuelled by back-to-back plays by Yassine Ghomari (Vancouver, BC) and Mike Zayonc (North Vancouver, BC), with beginning by connecting on a three. During the play a foul was called away from the ball and the Heat inbounds play saw Zayonc able to tip in a putback to complete a five point run in the span of seconds.

However, the Thunderbirds in turn forced a few key stops that included a shot clock violation from Mitch Goodwin (Kelowna, BC) and the game turned into a contest of whether Vancouver could make enough free-throws to ice things, which they did.

Vancouver’s Nixon wound up with 15 points, 13 rebounds and three assists on the night. Meanwhile, fifth-years Mike Zayonc (North Vancouver, BC) and Landry Ndayitwayeko (Windsor, ON) led the Heat scorers with ten apiece, the only players on the squad to break double-digits in scoring.

The Heat are 3-16 with the loss. Meanwhile the Thunderbirds move to 10-9, still in pursuit of locking up a playoff berth. The Heat will get a second chance at upsetting UBC’s plan tomorrow night in the teams’ rematch at 7 p.m. at War Memorial.