Amira Giannattasio

The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team suffered a devastating 113-108 loss in triple overtime to the UBC Thunderbirds at War Memorial Gym in Vancouver on Thursday night. It was an instant classic Legends Cup rivalry meeting and the two teams will have to find enough energy to face each other again in under 48 hours come Saturday night in Victoria. Despite the loss, fifth-year Vikes guard Amira Giannattasio’s 44-point effort lifted her in both the school and conference record books.

Giannattasio finished the night with 44 points, six rebouds, four steals and put up four three pointers to break a 40-year-old record for most points scored in a game. Victoria’s Carol Turney-Loos held the record of 42 points, fifth-highest in the Canada West, from a game in 1978 against Saskatchewan. Giannattasio’s total bumps her into fourth in the conference for most points in a game behind Calgary’s Meagan Koch who scored 49 points in 1996 and 45 points in 1995. Simon Fraser’s Teresa Kleindienst also shares the 45-point finish with Koch for her efforts in 2002.

Vikes Amira Giannattasio
Vikes Amira Giannattasio

“She seems to love this gym,” said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. “Her whole career she’s been lights out in this gym and I wish for her we could have pulled it out but you know credit to UBC for coming back late in the game and a good learning experience for our group. Hopefully in the immediate future it’s something we can learn from for Saturday night.”

The 44 points puts Giannattasio at 1220 career points heading in to the Vikes’ fourth game of the season.  The Hamilton, Ont. native is seventh in career scoring for the Vikes behind some legendary names including UVic record holder Lisa Koop with 1660 from 1992-98. Giannattasio passes Vike Kayla Dykstra who had 1209 career points and can next catch Jessica Renfrew (1256).

After struggling early in the game with some poor shooting and never holding the lead through regulation time the T-Birds chipped away at a six-point fourth quarter deficit and while trailing by two points with just 16 seconds remaining in the game the ‘Birds leaned on fourth-year guard Maddison Penn to hit both of her free throw attempts to tie it up at 70-70 and force extra time. UBC eventually rode that momentum and relied on key contributions from Keylyn Filewich and Kate Johnson while other key starters were forced to watch having fouled out of the contest en route to securing the dramatic come from behind victory. The T-Birds broke two school records in the win, beginning with 113 points which eclipses the previous high of 112 set in 1999 while Filewich set a new T-Birds women’s basketball single game rebounding record in collecting a game high 27 boards on the night.

There were several standout performers on the night and leading the way was sweet shooting Giannattasio who was lethal from the floor to go down as the third-most points scored in Canada West women’s basketball history and she was dazzling to watch until fouling out of the game with about two minutes to go in the third overtime. Giannattasio was worth the price of admission in hitting 15 of her 30 field goal attempts while converting on four of her 10 three point attempts and 10 of her 12 free throws. Fellow guard Ashlyn Day chipped in with 22 points for the visitors.

The T-Birds saw Penn and Johnson share the team high in points with 27 each, while Penn also added 14 rebounds before fouling out late in the first overtime period. Filewich was an absolute force in the paint as evidenced by her aforementioned rebounding effort but she also set the scoring pace late in contributing 21 of her 23 points on the night from the fourth quarter through to the end of the game. Also dominating when it counted most was Johnson who scored 19 points in the three overtime periods to ensure home court victory.

Each overtime period couldn’t have been more dramatic with seconds left in the first overtime and UBC looking to run out the clock leading 86-84 the T-Birds were inbounding from their own end and turned it over to Giannattasio who swiftly drove the lane for a layup and an 86-86 score line to force a second overtime.

There was even more drama to finish off the second overtime as UBC led 101-98 with 1.5 seconds remaining and trying to deny Giannattasio a three-point shot the T-Birds fouled her in the act of shooting which sent the veteran to the free throw line. Giannattasio would go on to calmly hit all three shots to tie the contest at 101-101 and force a third and final overtime frame.

“I think you know our shooting is going to come and go a bit especially against a great defensive team like UBC,” said Sinclair. “I think it’s pretty clear where the game is won, we gave them over 100 shots so there are certainly some things that are painful in terms of decisions down the stretch but you can’t expect to win a game when you give up 33 offensive boards and that’s where they won the game.”

With the win, the T-Birds improve to 2-1 while the Vikes fall to 1-2 on the young season, the two teams will square off once again in the second of the home and home Legends Cup rivalry series on Saturday night in Victoria with a 6:00 p.m. tip off.