They’ve been building all season for this opportunity.
The UNBC Northern Timberwolves will shoot hoops inside the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre this weekend with an opportunity to win a B.C. women’s basketball title and qualify for nationals. They play their first game in the six-team competition today at 1 p.m.
If the Timberwolves had a tough time spending Thursday, the opening day of the B.C. Colleges Athletic Association basketball provincials, watching from the sidelines they can be excused. The players were probably just anxious to begin their first game of the tournament in front of their fans and with a bye in the first round, they’re two wins away from a provincial title and berth to the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association national championship March 14-16 in Truro, N.S.
“I think (the excitement is) building,” fifth year guard Lindsay Anderson said during the Timberwolves’ final pre-tournament practice on Wednesday evening. “We were preparing for (provincials) all year, but definitely you can sort of feel the excitement in the air. Signs are getting put up, teams are rolling in and the atmosphere is starting to build.”
The Timberwolves were slated to meet the winner of a quarterfinal round game between the UBC Okanagan Lakers of Kelowna and Langara College Falcons of Vancouver. The result of that game and the rest of Thursday’s opening round were unavailable at press time.
The UNBC women will advance to the gold medal game at 6 p.m. on Saturday with a win today.
“(Getting the bye is an) advantage all around,” Anderson said. “That’s why they give it to the first and second place teams. You’re a little more rested come the final. The second game you’re a little more rested. We’re not travelling, we’re not going into a new gym, a new situation and a new atmosphere so there’s no jitters for us. We’re comfortable and the extra game just gives us a little more legs.”
The Timberwolves received the second of two byes with a regular season record of 11-5. The Camuson College Chargers of Victoria topped the nine-team league with a record of 13-3. The Lakers also finished 11-5 during the regular season, but UNBC won the second place tiebreaker by finishing with a better points for and against differential in their two games.
The Chargers, who also fit in a practice at the NSC Wednesday evening, meet the winner of Thursday’s game between the Capilano College Blues of North Vancouver and Nanaimo-based Malaspina University College Mariners in the second semifinal at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s a wide open tournament,” UNBC women’s head coach Loralyn Murdoch said. “I think that whoever plays best on any given night could walk away with the whole thing.”
Murdoch, who planned to watch Thursday’s opening round to examine the Timberwolves’ semifinal opponent, said in leading up to their opening game, they paid particular attention to blocking out on defence and preventing second opportunities.
“(Defensive rebounding has) been one of our issues all year long and it’s again something we have to focus on and really mentally prepare to do,” she said. “It’s a matter of choice and we have to make that choice.”
None of the BCCAA opposition has been able to knock off the Timberwolves on their home court. Their perfect 8-0 record at the NSC during the regular season could be a psychological factor.
“It’s not something that we talked about in the locker room,” said Murdoch of the undefeated record. “That’s something that has went unnoticed, per se and all we know is that we love the home town crowd. We love the support we’ve got from the city and the university community and we hope that it continues for this weekend.”
The Timberwolves’ goal this weekend of making nationals won’t come off as a shock. They plan to be on the court playing for gold on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“For sure. There’s no reason not to expect it,” Anderson said.
The six-team men’s provincial tournament also got underway on Thursday. The Douglas College Royals, who play their first game this evening at 8 p.m., are the heavy favourites. The Royals carry a 16-0 regular season record into the competition.
Also getting a first round bye was the UBC Okanagan Lakers, who finished the regular season at 12-4. The Lakers will play at 3 p.m. today against the winner of Thursday’s game between the Camosun College Chargers and Capilano College Blues.
The winner of Thursday’s opening round contest between the Malaspina University College Mariners and Abbotsford-based Columbia Bible College Bearcats will put their season to the test against the powerhouse Royals.
The men’s championship game will follow the women’s gold medal final, at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Saturday’s bronze medal games for the women and men are slated for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.