Thunderbirds outlast Heat to sweep weekend series

The Thunderbirds hit the road this weekend to take on the UBC Okanagan Heat in a two-game series, winning 97–77 on Friday, and squeaking out a close one on Saturday, 92–88.

The first matchup began with a quick lay up just two seconds in from Brian Wallack. His 17 points in the first half were a dominating factor in the T-Birds' 19-point lead going into halftime.

Coming out of the break, the Heat were not going down without a fight. Despite having no three-pointers in the first half, the team connected on two in the opening minutes of the third. They continued to slowly chip away at the T-Bird lead throughout the second half, and in the last quarter cut the deficit to single digits for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.

However, the ‘Birds responded with some heat of their own, converting on open chances and free throws, while holding things down defensively. Here, the ‘Birds began pulling away and even added some flair when Micah Jessie threw it up to Fareed Shittu for an alley-oop slam with five minutes to go. The Thunderbirds maintained the pressure and closed out with a 20-point win.

Wallack finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Shittu netted 20 along with 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Jessie added a solid 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists to the stat sheet as well.

Saturday’s action saw the Heat come out hungry for revenge, resulting in a back-and-forth first five minutes — until T-Bird Adam Olsen turned the tide, connecting on three three-pointers on consecutive possessions. The Heat bounced back with a couple buckets of their own, but still trailed by just seven after one.

The second quarter saw more scoring from Olsen, who sunk his fourth three. A few possessions later, he was fouled on his fifth attempt, sending him to the line for three free throws, connecting on them all. But again, the Heat bounced back. They would finish the quarter after a 17–8 run, and went into the half down 48–43.

Following halftime, the T-Birds looked to reassert their dominance. Shittu opened the quarter with a three pointer and Wallack followed with a steal on defence and an emphatic slam dunk on the other end. But the Heat did what they had been doing all weekend — went on a run of their own to end the quarter. They closed the gap and went into the final frame down 71–67.

The Birds’ kicked off the fourth on a 13–2 stretch but the Heat refused to quit. They slowly ate into the deficit and, following a 11–1 run of their own, made it a three-point game, 88–85, with just over a minute remaining.

15 seconds later, the Heat regained possession and the ball was brought up the court by fifth-year guard Hafith Moallin, who was stellar all night. Moallin pulled up from beyond the arc and converted, tying the game at 88 in the final minute as the crowd erupted.

However, their joy would soon be spoiled as the game hinged on free throws. With 30 seconds left, Wallack attacked the basket against two Heat defenders resulting in him being sent to the line. He hit one, but the Heat snagged the rebound. Following one from Wallack, T-Bird Tobi Akinkunmi sunk both of his attempts as well. The Heat missed their final shot attempt to keep the game alive, and the game ended with a four-point, Thunderbird victory.

Wallack had another solid performance finishing with 23 points and 8 rebounds while hitting 11 of 12 from the line. Four other ‘Birds racked up double digit points to round out the scoring.

The Thunderbirds will return to War Memorial Gymnasium on February 9 and 10, where they will face the University of Calgary Dinos for their final two games of the regular season.