The UNBC Timberwolves close out their inaugural CIS season of basketball with home games against top-flight UBC and fellow Canada West newcomers Mount Royal University over the next two weekends. Playoffs no longer look to be in the cards for either the mens or women’s teams – the veteran-laden men’s team never got off the ground in 2013 and fell out of contention, now needing to sweep the nationally-ranked #2 Thunderbirds and get help to qualify, while the relatively younger women’s team is mathematically eliminated and is looking to close the season on a high note. The final homestand will be the final games for a handful of Timberwolves reaching the end of their fifth and final year of eligibility – Kady Dandenault plays her last game for the women, and the men say goodbye to four of their top six minute hogs in Sam Raphael, Francis Rowe, Joel Rybachuk, and Jose Araujo. This Friday’s game against UBC is Faculty & Staff Appreciation Night, a follow-up to the Student Appreciation Night the Timberwolves hosted in January. Tickets to Friday’s game are free to current UNBC faculty and staff as the team takes on one of the better sporting schools in Canada. Expect the Timberwolves to play hard on the home court – players and coaches alike have highlighted the importance at all times this season of playing well in front of the support they receive from Prince George and the UNBC community. “Our home court advantage is huge,” said UNBC men’s coach Todd Jordan. “It is as tough as a home court as there is in the conference and it definitely gives us a boost.” UBC flies into town on an incredible run – the #2 men have won ten consecutive games dating back into November, while the #6 women have won ten of their last eleven games. To find any results against the Thunderbirds, UNBC’s teams will need an effort perhaps even surpassing that of the close fight the men put out against Alberta in November, where the T’Wolves led 55-46 after three quarters before the Golden Bears roared back in the fourth quarter to win. Tipoff against UBC is 6pm/8pm on both Friday and Saturday nights. The games against the Mount Royal Cougars, highlighted by most in the UNBC Athletics department as potential future rivals in Canada West play, appear to be easier contests. MRU’s men’s team has been largely unsuccessful all season, managing only splits against Thompson Rivers and UBC-Okanagan and a win in Brandon for a 3-15 record.
The women sit at 5-13, with a nearly-identical passport as the UNBC women – winning games against Brandon, Manitoba, Winnipeg, Lethbridge, and UBC-O. With the Cougars’ teams a combined 5-15 on the road, the Timberwolves hope to close the season with four wins against the school from Calgary. The games are played next weekend, February 15-16th, at 6pm/8pm each night. Expect the Saturday game against MRU to be particularly emotional and loud as so many of the players say goodbye to UNBC basketball in front of a crowd likely to exceed 1000.