Final games for trio on the weekend
It’s been almost four years since Northern Timberwolves’ Jennifer Clyne and Maria Neumann celebrated a provincial basketball title at home.
They’ve completed three full years of schooling since then, but helping UNBC secure its first B.C. Colleges Athletic Association banner remains a positive memory to reflect on.
Clyne and Neumann were rookies on a 2007-08 women’s squad which finished 10-0 at home in the regular season and playoffs. The special campaign was also the Northern Timberwolves’ first in the Northern Sport Centre, capped off with a 71-54 victory over the Camosun College Chargers in front of a capacity crowd on March 1, 2008.
“Basically just that winning moment I guess, with all the fans and our team together. That was really exciting,” Neumann said.
The 2008 Canadian Colleges Athletic Association nationals in Truro, N.S., where UNBC finished sixth out of eight teams, marked the only appearance at the tournament for the women’s program. Clyne is hopeful this season’s group will get the Timberwolves back there. They carry a 10-0 regular-season record into their final home games of the 2011-12 campaign, tonight against the Capilano University Blues and Saturday against the Quest University Kermodes (6 p.m. at the NSC).
“There’s something (more) special about this team than other years, and I just think we have such a good bond,” said Clyne, who completed high school at D.P. Todd Secondary in 2007. “I think this is the team that’s going to do it.”
The men’s games will follow the women’s action at 8 p.m. each night. This weekend is also the final at home for men’s fifth-year graduate Dennis Stark (see story on Page A20).
Clyne and Neumann represent two thirds of this season’s UNBC female basketball graduating class, players who will get recognized for their achievements on the court on Saturday night. The other is Erin Beckett, who began suiting up for the Timberwolves in 2008 after using up her first season of eligibility in Canadian Interuniversity Sport with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in 2006-07.
While she wasn’t on the court with the provincial champions in 2008, Beckett has become no stranger to the NSC, basketball spectators, her teammates and classmates. The 2006 graduate of College Heights Secondary, who took the 2007-08 season off varsity basketball to recover from a virus, was named the Timberwolves’ Most Valuable Player last season.
“I would say just playing in this gym, in my hometown,” she responded when asked what she’ll remember most. “We have amazing fans, an amazing crowd almost every game.”
A Dawson Creek product, Neumann relocated to Prince George to begin attending UNBC.
“It’s had its hard moments, but for the most case I’ve loved it. I love the team. That’s what’s brought me back every year.”
The difficult times include heartbreaking defeats over the past three seasons. As the provincial silver medalists in 2009, the women’s team was hoping for an invite to the CCAA tournament as a wildcard. That never happened.
In the 2009-10 campaign, the Timberwolves rolled to a 17-1 regular season, but a semifinal defeat eliminated any chance of qualifying. They finished fourth.
As a lower seed at provincials last year, UNBC finished with a 2-1 record. But since their only defeat was in the semifinal round, they fell short of a berth to nationals and settled for bronze.
This year’s national tournament is scheduled for March 15 to 17 at Lethbridge College, with provincials taking place March 1 to 3 in Vancouver.
Clyne has played a key role in the Timberwolves’ success this year, leading the the team in individual scoring, and her efforts will go a long way in helping the team down the stretch. She ranks second in PacWest points per game average at 19.25, with a total of 154 points in eight games.
“This has been my best year and I just feel the most comfortable out there, and it kind of feels like Grade 12 in high school,” she said. “I just feel super confident and capable and it feels awesome.”
Each player may head a separate way once the school year ends. With one more year left to complete her Bachelor of Education program, Beckett will be back at UNBC in the fall. Clyne completes her Bachelor of Commerce double major in general business and finance, while Neumann is earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in psychology. Clyne and Neumann are both exploring options, but are including travelling in their plans.
As much as she’s looking forward to the break, Clyne admits she wishes she had one more year to see how she’d perform in UNBC’s first season in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster of events over the years. I would love to have one more crack at it.”