T-wolves still looking for first victory
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.”