The University of British Colombia Thunderbirds started their Canada-West playoff run in a best of three series against UNBC Timberwolves last weekend during the CW play-in series. The Thunderbirds took out the brooms to sweep Timberwolves with a 74-61 victory on Friday afternoon and an 76-55 win on Saturday afternoon. The fifth seed, Thunderbirds will travel to Alberta to play the 4th seed, Pandas.
Penn Dominance –
Second-year Aussie guard, Maddison Penn put on a show in her first Canada- West playoff appearance. Penn who finished second in CW for scoring during regular season scored 22 points on Friday along with eight rebounds and five steals. Penn on Saturday continued her dominance against Timberwolves with 18 points and six rebounds. Penn completed six threes out of 13 attempts over the weekend. Penn in the two games averaged 20.0 points a game and scored 40 points. She is currently second in scoring after round one of the Canada-West playoffs.
The Thunderbirds coming into their matchup against UNBC had a tough task as they need to guard two of the best scorers in CW with third-year Greek forward, Vasiliki Louka (15.8 ppg & 316 pts) and second-year Spaniard guard, Maria Mongomo ( 16.1 ppg & 322 pts). The T-Birds defense forces the Timberwolves to commit 55 turnovers in the two games and scored 48 points off those turnovers. The Thunderbirds also did a great job off guarding Mongomo, holding her to single- digits on the scoresheet in the two games. She had 6 points on Friday and 8 points on Saturday. Louka in game one was held to eight points along with nine rebounds however game two she had a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds. The Thunderbirds held the Timberwolves to just 36.6% shooting in the two games.
Pandas vs. Thunderbirds preview–
The two teams met last month where they split the series at War Memorial Gymnasium in Vancouver. The T-Birds took game one by a score of 71-64 and the Pandas won game two by three points, 60-57.
The Pandas averaged 67.0 points a game and scored 1,339 points (7th in CW) in 20 games this season. The team had FG% of 41.3 % which was second in the conference. Coming into this season, none know what to expect from this Pandas team due to the graduation of Megan Wickstrom, Jessilyn Fairbanks and Renee Byrne. Fifth-year guard, Maddie Rodgers this season took on more of leadership role and was the leading scorer on team. Rodgers averaged 15.5 points a game and scored 310 points in 20 games this season. She also had 75 assists which was third in the conference. Rodgers lastly had 84 rebounds this season. Rodgers in the two games against the Thunderbirds last month had a 25-points performance in game one and scored 15 points in game two. Fourth-year Texan forward, Elle Hendershot also played huge role for the Pandas this season as she averaged 9.9 ppg and scored 197 points during the regular season. Hendershot scored eight points in game one against T-Birds and then had a 14 points performance in game two.
The Thunderbirds averaged 72.8 points a game and scored 1,455 points (3rd in CW) during the regular season. UBC led the conference in FG% with 41.8%. The Thunderbirds on offence are led by Maddison Penn who has been sensational during the postseason so far. Penn as previously mentioned was second in Canada-West for scoring during the regular season with 362 points. Penn is also a great shooter as she made 121-314 of her shots this season (3rd in CW). Penn in the two games against Pandas during the regular season scored 19 points in game one and was limited to eight points in game two. Fifth-year American forward, Kara Spotton is another key member of the high-scoring Thunderbirds team. Spotton averaged 12.0 points a game and scored 239 points during the regular season. Spotton led the Canada-West in offensive rebounds with 72. Spotton is currently averaging 8.0 points a game and has scored 16 points during the postseason. Spotton against the Pandas scored five points in game one and in game two she dropped 14 points. Second-year Ontario guard, Krysten Lindquist has had great start to the postseason coming off the bench as she leads in FG% with 75.0%. She is averaging 13.0 points a game and has scored 26 points in the two games. Lindquist during the regular season averaged 5.1 points and scored 101 points. In the two games against the Pandas, she only had two points in the two games.
Pandas on defense held its opponents to just 56.8 points a game which was second in Canada-West. Pandas opponents shot 35.7 % against them which ranked them fourth in the CW. The Pandas averaged 19.6 turnovers a game. Rodgers led the team in steals with 43 and Hendershot led the team in defensive rebounds with 104.
The Thunderbirds on defense held its opponents to 61.2 points a game. Teams against them only shot 36.4 % which ranked them fifth in CW. Lastly, Thunderbirds averaged 21.0 turnovers a game during the regular season. The team was second in blocks averaging 4.3 per a game and averaged 9.7 steals a game (6th in CW). Spotton led the team in blocks and steals during the regular season. She had 22 blocks (4th in CW) and 33 steals. Penn led the team in defensive rebounds during the regular season with 95.
I expect this series to go the distance as the two teams are very similar. The Pandas were 10-0 at home during the regular season.