Azalya Forstbauer shines on women's basketball senior night as T-Birds fall to Cascades in tightly contested game

The Thunderbirds women's basketball team (10–8) ended a hard-fought game with a 73–65 loss to the University of Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades (13–5) at War Memorial Gymnasium last Saturday.

Despite a tight game at halftime, a stalled 'Birds offence in the third quarter opened up the game for the visitors. The Cascades protected their lead during the home team's final rally with sharpshooting, knocking down three of seven from the three point line, including two consecutive baskets with under half a quarter to go. Ultimately, turnovers proved costly for the 'Birds in the fourth as the visitors scored eight points off their errors and stalled the T-Birds’ comeback attempt.

Coach Erin McAleenan emphasized the strong team effort on the offensive glass, which generated 13 second-chance points.

"I'm super proud of how hard we work to never give up and continue to battle right to the end of the day," said McAleenan "[I'd like to work on] some of our decision making. First and foremost, probably with the turnovers, especially just like the unforced turnovers, where we need to be able to not [only] see the first read but the second read or the third read, based on where the defence is.”

Olivia Weekes (#9) looks for a shot.
Olivia Weekes (#9) looks for a shot. Ravnoop Badesha / The Ubyssey

This year's senior night paid tribute to Azalya Forstbauer, the lone senior on the team. After half a decade of university hoops, Forstbauer delivered one more memorable performance with a season-high 12 points, 10 of which came in the final frame.

Coach Erin McAleenan praised Forstbauer's leadership on the team and highlighted her role as an anchor in a defence that ranks second in Canada West for points conceded per game.

"She's just such a hard worker. So I think that because of that, she's become even more competent, clear in her role. She plays better and better," said McAleenan.

Forstbauer spoke about the challenges of playing against the Cascades, who matched the T-Birds' work effort and held a size advantage in the post.

"They also are just such a gritty team," said the senior. "Playing against some of these top teams in Canada West [is] a super awesome experience for us going into [the] playoffs. I think UFV did a great job, like matching up against us and taking advantage of smaller players ... but we gotta get used to that. We're gonna continue to play teams that are physical."

The senior expressed her gratitude towards her teammates and the 'Birds.

"This team means everything to me. We have such a great group of girls. And we are a super young team. So I'm so excited for them to continue on because they're so talented and just like seeing where they take this program in the next couple of years," said Forstbauer.

Despite the pair of losses, the 'Birds stand at 10–8, easily surpassing their 6-win season last year. The team looks to the next few weeks to cement their playoff hopes against the Victoria Vikes (8–10) next weekend.