The UBC Okanagan Heat couldn’t find a solution for the powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort or a shortage of hometown support.
Heat head coach Pete Guarasci had praise for both the fans and his players, as the T’Birds (14-2) swept a pair of Canada West men’s games over the weekend at The Furnace.
“I know our guys performed and fed off the crowd,” said Guarasci, in his first season as Heat head coach. “Really good fan support all weekend. If we can get that kind of fan support every home game, our guys love it, they feed off it, and I guarantee you that kind of support will end up every year with two or three extra wins just by having them there.”
The Heat took the T’Birds to the wire on Friday and looked poised to pull and upset before going down to defeat in a low-scoring affair, 63-61. David Wagner’s buzzer beater for UBC prevented the Heat from upsetting the No. 2 nationally-ranked UBC squad.
“I think our guys just put on a defensive show,” Guarasci said. “From our point guard to our five-man, everyone was moving their feet. We were hustling and we were battling. They were just so focused defensively. It was awesome for me to watch.”
Mitch Goodwin was named the Heat player of the game after netting a team-high tying 13 points, while grabbing three rebounds. Fourth-year guard Yassine Ghomari also put up 13 points while grabbing two boards.
On Saturday, Wagner netted 24 points as the T’Birds had more breathing room in an 81-66 win over UBCO.
The Heat had big efforts from Mitch Goodwin (20 points) and fourth-year players Yassine Ghomari and Dave Mackay, both Vancouverites refusing to lose to their hometown team. Ghomari and Mackay fouled out in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, but not before fighting tooth and nail every possession against a larger and stronger Thunderbirds squad.
“To have those guys compete and work that hard, and to help the program build a culture of competitiveness and how hard we’re going to fight, it’s just a luxury,” said Guarasci of his starters after the game. “I’m very grateful for the way they compete. We look forward to getting that from everybody.”
The Heat (2-15) will host the Fraser Valley Cascades, Friday at 8 p.m.
The Thunderbirds firepower was too much for their Okanagan counterparts in Canada West women’s action as UBC scored a weekend sweep at the Kelowna campus.
On Friday, UBC ran away in the second half en route to an 84-54 win.
Leigh Stansfield dominated in the paint for the T’Birds to the tune of 18 points and seven rebounds.
Madison Kaneda was named Heat Player of the Game after putting up nine points and eight rebounds, Emily Kanester and rookie Jessica Jazdarehee also added nine points apiece.
On Saturday, a much improved effort with more energy and intensity from the Heat in a 62-55 loss. Roslyn Huber was the Heat player, getting out of her scoring slump to put up 17 points while grabbing six rebounds.
“It was just such a turnaround from (Friday night),” Semeniuk said after the game. “We talked about intention and purpose again, and not letting circumstances affect what you want to do. Just play and do what you want to do so that at the end of the game you felt like you gave it your all, and that you felt good about how you played.”
The Heat women (5-12) return to action this Friday when they host the Fraser Valley Cascades, 6 p.m. at The Furnace.