Vikes clinch playoff spot with eighth-straight victory

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VICTORIA – The 14-point difference at the end of the game was by far the biggest lead of the night, as the UVic Vikes women’s basketball team were able to grind out their eighth-straight victory in a 76-64 win over the Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, inside the CARSA Performance Gym on Jan. 20.

“It was a close game, there were some scary moments there,” said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. “Their starting lineup is about as tough as you are going to face in our conference. They are a veteran group that wanted to come away with a win tonight and we were lucky to pull one out.”

The Vikes run of eight-straight wins has moved them all the way into a three-way tie for third-place in the Canada West conference with a record of 12-4. The win also guarantees that Victoria will make a post-season appearance for the fifth season in a row. The two losses that the Timberwolves suffered this weekend drop them to 8-10 on the season, where they are currently tied for tenth-place.

It was a balanced scoring effort that led the Vikes to victory. Amira Giannattasio led the team with 15 points, while Kristy GallagherAleah AshleeAshlyn Day and Katie Langdon all joined her in scoring in the double-digits. Langdon also put up 11 rebounds on the night to go along with a great second half defensive effort on UNBC star Vasiliki Louka.

“She was the biggest difference for us in the second half, just rebounding the ball,” said Sinclair. “Those same plays in the first half were put-backs for Louka and she allowed us to get some easy baskets which was huge.”

Louka led the way for UNBC, putting up 15 points in the first half and 19 overall in the game, to go along with 12 rebounds. Maria Mongomo joined her with a double-double of 15 and ten, while Madison Landry chipped in with 13 points of her own.

The main difference on the night was in how efficiently the teams shot the ball. The Vikes made 46 per cent of their attempts while the Timberwolves struggled, hitting just 33 per cent of their shot attempts.

It was a cagey start to the game as both teams made defensive adjustments from the night before. The Vikes did a decent job of holding UNBC to just 33 per cent from the field, but the Timberwolves went to work on the offensive boards to make up for it, picking up six offensive rebounds in the frame. At the end of the first quarter, the Vikes were up just one, 18-17.

UNBC had their best offensive quarter in the second, shooting 46 per cent as a team. Louka drained a jumper at the buzzer to give her ten points in the frame and send the Timberwolves into the halftime break up by four.

The third quarter was the difference in the game, as the Vikes stepped up the pressure defensively, limiting the Timberwolves to just eight points in the quarter and forcing UNBC into five turnovers.

“In the first half we were very reactive, in the second we were much more aggressive and played with more intensity,” said Sinclair. “We defended well in the third quarter and again when we needed to in the fourth.”

The Vikes were never able to pull away however, as the determined Timberwolves battled hard and hung around. The 53-48 Vikes lead after three quarters was the biggest lead for either team so far in the game.

The back and forth action continued deep into the fourth quarter. Mongomo finished a sweet drive through contact to give the Timberwolves a 60-59 lead with 4:15 left to play.

UVic executed the better of the two teams down the stretch however, and a Giannattasio floater gave them a six-point lead with 2:16 left. With the lead finally extended beyond five, the Vikes were able to pull away late and comfortably secure the victory.

UNBC will play their final games of the regular season next weekend when they host the Fraser Valley Cascades in Prince George.

The Vikes meanwhile, will stay at home to host the Mount Cougars inside the CARSA Performance Gym.

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