Drowning in doubt and watching as the game and their No. 3 CIS rank was about to slip through their hands, the UBC women’s basketball team needed a dramatic shivers-down-your-spine comeback.
Trailing 51-37 to the Trinity Western Spartans in the fourth quarter, the Thunderbirds were being outplayed by a less-talented squad.
Head coach Deb Huband had seen her players turn the ball over and allow easy baskets nearly all evening. There appeared to be no sign of hope.
Yet if this game teaches us anything, it’s that appearances can only tell so much.
There certainly was a hope, and it turned into a furious fourth quarter rally that saw the ‘Birds become victors in a 66-61 court battle, improve to 3-1 on the season and keep their CIS ranking intact.
Huband asked her players at the start of the final frame, “What do you see, what do you feel, what do we need to do, what’s going on out there?” If that’s not a coach putting trust in her players, I don’t know what is.
The ‘Birds responded in the only fashion that a championship-calibre team would know how. They fought back hard.
Hustling for every loose ball, making nearly every defensive stop and draining all but of one of their free-throws (18 for 19 from the charity stripe for the game) UBC marched off the court with their heads held high and full of smiles after closing the gap, and stealing the win.
The home team’s full-court press led to a plethora of turnovers by the Spartans, many of which led to quick points for the T-Birds. The benches, along with the home crowd could feel the tides changing in favour of UBC. All of the Spartans’ confidence had seemingly been transferred to the ‘Birds. For all of the things UBC can take from this game, however, there are negatives.
Those smiles I spoke of—they were smiles of relief. This team must focus on their next opponent and keep their eyes on the prize. There are high expectations for this team, and with two of their premier players (Zara Huntley and Alex Vieweeg) nearing the end of their UBC playing days, the door for a championship may not be open next year.
The team cannot afford to start slow against opponents or take low-ranked teams for granted. Hopefully the momentum of this victory will endure into next weekend’s games in Alberta, where they’ll face Lethbridge and Calgary on back-to-back nights. That same momentum will be needed going forward into January’s games against fifth and sixth-ranked Alberta and Saskatchewan, respectively.
From what I saw in their two most recent games, the team needs to have more confidence in their shooting and needs to gel offensively. Individual players cannot always be relied on to make their own plays and bail out dissolved offensive possessions. While open shots are at times missed, players cannot lose confidence.
The premier teams in the Canada West will make them pay for tentative decision-making, and make them pay dearly.