Putting together their best an all-around performance of the season, the UBC Okanagan Heat knocked off a nationally-ranked team for their third victory of the CIS Canada West men's basketball season.
After a frustrating 85-80 overtime loss to the No. 9-ranked Fraser Valley Cascades the night before, the Heat played a cohesive and energy-charged game on Saturday to defeat the visitors 68-58.
"It's a great, great feeling," said UBCO fourth-year guard Landry Ndayitwayeko of Windsor, Ont., after his team's upset of the Cascades (10-8). "We've been just on the brink here and there, but even all those losses we took in the first semester are starting to pay off for us. We've got a lot of young guys, so it's a learning experience."
A highly efficient Heat offence kept the high-tempo Cascades from generating any rhythm, as the UBCO crew took its time with shot clocks and passing the ball (17 assists) to find good looks that resulted in a 55.3 field goal percentage.
"I thought today we took better care of the ball and we were just better organized than even on Friday," Ndayitwayeko added in a postgame interview. "We didn't try to press it. Yesterday with the lead we were trying to get early shots on the shot clock, so it was good that we took our time today."
Ndayitwayeko came up big off the bench for the Heat, finding nothing but net on all four of his three-point attempts en route to piling up 16 points and five rebounds. While his steady hand at the point was his most significant contribution, he often made the hustle plays and was vocal presence on the court.
"I'm just trying to keep guys focused," said Ndayitwayeko, a captain on the team. "There are ups and downs in games, and you just have to refocus in down times and make sure guys are on the same page."
Heat coach Pete Guarasci also noted the added focus of his squad, saying, "I think we have a really competitive bunch. They want to win together. When they huddle up on the court, they're refocusing each other."
Guarasci went on to admit how pleased he was to see the labours of his team finally bear fruit.
"The way they came back to compete and to mentally execute this game plan tonight just shows the tremendous strength and character of our group."
Rookie Mitch Goodwin, a Kelowna Secondary School graduate, was just one rebound shy of a double-double on Saturday with a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Heat, who showed signs of turning the corner against the nationally No. 2-ranked UBC Thunderbirds a week earlier, jumped out to a 35-22 lead by the half. They were outscored by just three in the second.
On Friday, the Heat led the Cascade for most of the fourth quarter, but, as was the case against the T-Birds, couldn't finish the job and ended up losing in OT.
Goodwin, named the player of the game for a third straight time, led the Heat with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists. Backcourt partner, Yassine Ghomari of Vancouver had a game-high 21 points, while forward Dave Mackay finished with 16.
While it was heart and hustle that kept the Heat neck-and-neck with the Cascades, UFV fourth-year guard Klaus Figuerdo hit one of two free-throws with 11.2 seconds remaining to force an overtime period where the Heat let slip their mental focus, leading to poor execution and a loss.
"The passion was there, but we didn't play with our brains for the last two minutes of the game," said coach Guarasci. "We had time to score; possessions that we wasted on offense; and we didn't execute in the final two minutes to win this ballgame tonight."
Despite taking an 18-2 lead early in the first quarter, the UBCO Heat came up short down the stretch to drop a 69-62 decision to the nationally No. 4-ranked Fraser Valley Cascades in CIS Canada West women's basketball play on Saturday.
"I couldn't be prouder. To have a seven-point game against the fourth ranked team in Canada is a huge accomplishment," said Heat coach Heather Semeniuk after the game in which her team led 41-34 at the half. "They had courage to play defence and they had courage to shoot the ball. The first half was just outstanding, the way they were playing together."
A pair of sophomore guards - Emily Kanester of Vernon and Sarah Allison of South Surrey - led the team in scoring with 15 points, while Kanester also had a double-double with 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Kelowna's Roslyn Huber contributed eight points to bring her five-year total to 861, one shy of Jenna Kantz, who ended her career last season. Huber will get the chance to pass her former teammate when the Heat (5-14) travel to Langley to take on the Trinity Western Spartans this weekend.
The Heat's loss on Saturday came on the heels of a 73-55 defeat at the hands of UFV (15-3) on Friday.
Kanester, the Heat's player of the game, and Allison, both finished with 12 points in Friday's setback.