Vikes overcome slow start, take down UNBC

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VICTORIA – They didn’t take their first lead of the game until the third quarter, but in the end the UVic Vikes women’s basketball were in the lead when it mattered the most in a 76-70 victory over the Northern British Coumbia Timberwolves, inside the CARSA Performance Gym on Jan. 19.

The key stat of the night was a Vikes bench that outscored UNBC 21-4 in the game, as Victoria rallied from an early 13-point deficit to grab their seventh consecutive victory.

“We have a lot to look at, we have to be a lot better than we were tonight because without our bench outscoring them, we are in trouble,” said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. “Really good job from our bench coming in and contributing.”

The win moves the Vikes to 11-4 on the season. Their seven game winning streak is the third-longest in the conference and has helped move them into a tie for fourth-place. The Timberwolves meanwhile, drop to 8-9 on the season and have just three games remaining to solidify their spot as the potential host of a playoff series.

Veterans Amira Giannattasio and Kristy Gallagher once again led the way for the Vikes, scoring 16 points each. Gallagher added nine rebounds to finish just one board shy of the triple-double. Rookie Ashlyn Day was a catalyst in the turnaround, recording 14 points and adding two blocks in the game.

The Timberwolves were led by their dynamic duo of Vasiliki Louka and Maria Mongomo. Louka ended the night with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Mongomo was good for 19 and seven in the game. Fourth-year guard Abby Gibb was three-for-three from beyond the arc, en route to scoring 11 points.

The Timberwolves came out in the first quarter on fire, putting up 27 points in the opening ten minutes. They shot 64 per cent as a team from the field, with Mongomo and Louka recording ten points each. The Vikes struggled to find an answer for both Louka’s size down low and Mongomo’s speed moving into the lane. Gallagher was the top Vike in the frame with seven points, but the team shot a full 20 per cent lower than the Timberwolves to trail 27-17 after one quarter.

The turnaround for the Vikes started in the second quarter.

The team finished the second on a 13-3 run, fuelled by some tough defence and tenacious offensive rebounding, rookie Haily Weaver had five offensive rebounds all by herself in the frame. They were also able to limit Louka and Mongomo to just two points combined in the quarter and trailed by just three points heading into the halftime break.

“The big difference other than trying to slow down their offence, in particular Mongomo and Louka, was that we had better shot selection in the second quarter,” said Sinclair. “We were settling for long shots at the start of the game, but when we started to attack the rim and the offensive glass than we got some easier stuff.”

A Gallagher jumper just over two minutes into the third quarter, gave the Vikes their first lead of the game and they didn’t look back from there.

The two teams went back and forth throughout the rest of the quarter until Giannattasio ended the third with a buzzer-beating three to send the Vikes into the fourth with their largest lead of the game, 59-54. Defence was again key in the third as the  Vikes caused seven turnovers and only gave up one of their own.

The Vikes were able to get out to a nine-point lead early in the fourth, but the Timberwolves refused to go away quietly. The teams traded baskets down the stretch in the fourth quarter but the Vikes were able to hold onto their lead and capture the 76-70 victory.

Victoria will get the chance to run their winning streak to eight games when these same two teams are back in action tomorrow, Saturday Jan. 20. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. inside the CARSA Performance Gym.

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