KELOWNA, BC – Playing in Kelowna, but not on their home court, the Heat women’s basketball team struggled to score in the second half and allowed the visiting NAIT Ooks to pull out a 3-point victory (65-62) at Immaculata Regional High in a special community engagement game.
With a crowd full of young Steve Nash League basketball players and current and former Immaculata Mustangs in the stands to cheer on two Mustang alums in UBC Okanagan’s Olivia and Emma Johnson made for an electric atmosphere in the small high school gym.
Emma, a first year player for the Heat, came off the bench and led the Heat in scoring. The familiar rims were friendly to Johnson as she finished with 14 points to lead all scorers in the game. The 5-foot 8 guard also grabbed six boards, four of those on the offensive glass. Summerland product Chloe Kennedy, a transfer from Douglas College, also came off the bench, she led UBC Okanagan with eight rebounds, and also finished with 10 points in just 18 minutes of floor time. Fourth year forward Kayla McFadden was (4-7) from the field to finish with 11.
Olivia a third year guard, the other Immaculata Alum, was nearly the hero on Friday night with a steal and a three point attempt at the buzzer to tie the game. The shot didn’t find its mark but she played 24 minutes to lead all UBCO players; never known for scoring the former provincial champion MVP was once again tasked with shutting down the other teams top offensive guard.
Both team struggled shooting the ball on the night as the field goal percentage for both UBC Okanagn (21-61, 34.4%) and NAIT (23-58, 39.7%) were below 40-percent. The difference in the game was NAIT’s willingness and ability to knock down the three point shot. The Ooks hit on 37.5-percent from long distance (9-24) accounting for 27-percent of their scoring. UBC Okanagan only took 10 threes, hit three of them, the nine points accounted for just 15-percent of their points.
Nicole Ruptash took 12 threes hit four of them to lead the Ooks with 12 points, Shea-Lynn Noyes added 11 points, while Rai Hooper scored seven and hauled in a game high nine boards.
Leading by 14 just before the half before a last second NAIT basket by Rai Hooper sent the game into the break with UBC Okanagan up 12 (34-22), the Heat struggled in the second half, scoring just 28 points. It was the hot shooting of the Ooks in the second that sunk UBC Okanagan, NAIT hit 8-14 from long distance to come all the way back to win by three (65-62).
UBC Okanagan, struggling to score, held the lead until 6:29 in the fourth when a Ruptash three drew the Ooks even (52-52). A three by Leah Vandenboogaard with 4:30 left put the Heat down for good, the lead was pushed to eight by the Ooks before a late charge had the Kelowna team draw within two with 19 seconds left. A made NAIT free throw put the lead to three before Johnson’s steal and three nearly tied it.
Next up for UBC Okanagan will be a three game series in Ontario, with stops at London’s Western University, the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo. The 401 swing tour runs Friday-Sunday (October 16-18).
Their Canada West season opener will be at home this year as UBC Okanagan will host Fraser Valley for a pair of games on Friday, November 6th and Saturday, November 7th. Tip off is at 6 p.m. on Friday and at 5 p.m. on Saturday.