T-wolves still look­ing for first vic­tory

The Prince George Citizen - - SPORTS - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff LOUKA

After a 0-4 start to their U Sports Canada West women’s bas­ket­ball sea­son, no­body around the UNBC Tim­ber­wolves is push­ing any panic but­tons.

It’s not go­ing to get any eas­ier for the T-wolves this week­end know­ing the per­pet­u­ally-tough UBC Thun­der­birds are in town for a two-game set tonight (6 p.m. start) and Satur­day at the Charles Jago North­ern Sport Cen­tre.

Con­sid­er­ing the T-wolves made the play­offs last year for the first time in their brief Canada West his­tory, there’s ob­vi­ous pres­sure on them to win, but that’s not com­ing from their head coach Sergey Shchep­otkin. He just wants his team to start play­ing bet­ter and liv­ing up to its po­ten­tial.

“It’s a big test for us, UBC is al­ways a good team with a huge his­tory and they have a cou­ple su­per-good play­ers,” said Shchep­otkin, now in his fifth sea­son be­hind the bench. “Their Aus­tralian player, Madi­son Penn, is the best scorer in the league and their Num­ber 9 (Key­lyn Filewich) is re­ally good.”

“We don’t ac­tu­ally feel the pres­sure that we must win. I’m just ask­ing them to work hard and I don’t want any­thing but good bas­ket­ball. If we show ev­ery­thing we can then the re­sults will come.”

Penn is av­er­ag­ing 18.8 points per game (third in Canada West) and put up 35 points last week­end against Cal­gary in a 62-59 UBC win which im­proved the T-birds’ record to 3-1.

The teams last met in the play­offs in Fe­bru­ary and the T-birds swept that open­ing-round se­ries 2-0.

Vasi­liki Louka is do­ing all that’s ex­pected as one of the lead­ers of the T-wolves’ pack. The fourthyear for­ward from Athens, Greece leads her team in scor­ing (27.3 points per game), re­bounds (10.5 av­er­age) and blocks (1.3).

“She has ma­tured and she un­der­stands the game very well and she’s do­ing her best,” said Shchep­otkin.

Louka has had to step up her of­fen­sive game with Maria Mon­gomo still on the mend. Mon­gomo hurt her knee about a month ago in the pre­sea­son and de­spite that she’s played all four reg­u­lar-sea­son games, av­er­ag­ing 12 points and six re­bounds. The third-year guard from Spain is still shoot­ing 29 per cent from the field and has hit 20 per cent of her three- point at­tempts, but the in­jury has no­tice­ably di­min­ished her speed and play­mak­ing abil­ity.

“She’s re­ally strug­gling and she’s play­ing through the pain and hope­fully she’ll get bet­ter,” said Shchep­otkin. “She’s work­ing hard and we know how dif­fi­cult that is for her.”

With Mon­gomo not at her best, Shchep­otkin says that puts the onus on play­ers like fifth-year for­ward Emily Aase and sec­ondyear for­ward Madi­son Landry to take up the scor­ing slack. Landry has cer­tainly done that, av­er­ag­ing 13.3 points.

Alina Shakirova, a 19-year-old from Rus­sia who red-shirted with UNBC last sea­son, has rel­ished her role as one of the T-wolves’ top de­fen­sive play­ers. She draws the tougher as­sign­ments shad­ow­ing op­po­nents’ top shoot­ers and her abil­ity to con­tain them has not gone un­no­ticed.

“She’s prob­a­bly one of our best de­fend­ers and she’s do­ing a great job on re­bounds,” said Shchep­otkin. “She’s still strug­gling on of­fence (av­er­ag­ing five points) but I’m pos­i­tive about her – she has a good shot and she will get some points.”

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