Photo Provided by Thompson Media

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer to affect women. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an average of 80 Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. 

Breast cancer is a deadly force, so when it comes to fighting back, there is strength in numbers.

This is where Shoot for the Cure comes into play. Shoot for the Cure is a 12-day fundraising initiative organized by the U Sports Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, which aims to raise awareness and money for the Canadian Cancer Society. Every year, women’s university basketball teams host fundraising events through regular season games in support of Shoot for the Cure. The event is an opportunity for students and staff to watch some great basketball and raise money for an important cause. 

On January 26, the Heat women’s basketball team hosted the UBC Vancouver Thunderbirds for the 17th year of Shoot for the Cure. 

There were over 300 fans in attendance, marking one of the Heat’s most packed and energetic events of the year. Throughout the game, there were company donations and prize draw giveaways, and at halftime, Kayleigh Trowman and Khushi Hooda, two of the Heat’s golfers, donated their hair to individuals going through cancer treatments. 

The energy in the crowd was felt on the court, too. UBCO captain Kelsey Falk racked up 22 points, six rebounds, and two assists, and rookie guard Temi Aina pulled off a career-high of eight points. But Thunderbirds’ Olivia Weekes was not going down without a fight. The guard took control of the game and responded with 25 points and 13 rebounds. 

With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Heat guard Sofia Ainsa Lluch drove to the hoop and dropped a clutch basket to tie the game, but the Thunderbirds pulled away with an 80-77 victory in the final seconds.

While both teams displayed a great amount of skill, the most impressive stat from the night was the $6,045.50 that the Heat raised for Shoot for the Cure.

Our men’s team took the court next in hopes of securing a win against the Thunderbirds. UBC’s Brian Wallack gave the Heat no time to warm up, putting 17 points on the scoreboard and leaving the Heat trailing behind 19 points at halftime. The Heat’s Jalen Shirley applied pressure with 21 points, and David Usuomon kept the momentum with a major slam dunk in the fourth quarter, but their efforts were not enough to come back from the deficit in the first half. Wallack finished with 23 points, and the Thunderbirds walked away with a 97-77 win.

The following day, the Heat matched up against the Thunderbirds for round two. The women took the court first, and once again, both teams fought a close battle. The Heat showed up early, securing a collective 29 points, and took the lead going into the second half. 

In the remaining 20 minutes, UBC forward Mona Berlitz asserted dominance on the court and contributed 14 points to close the gap. The Heat struggled to respond, but there was a special moment from one player in particular.

UBCO superstar and Kelowna local, Jaeli Ibbetson, hit a major milestone in her 66th career game, becoming the second player in program history to score 1,000 points. In the 2022–2023 season, she led the Heat in points, blocks, and rebounds, and was named a Canada West Conference first-team all-star. Clearly, Ibbetson is no stranger to success. 

Photo Provided by Thompson Media

To cap off her memorable night, the fourth-year forward finished the game with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists. Sofia Lluch also contributed 14 points, and Rachel Hettinga followed close behind with 12 points. Despite their efforts, the Heat lost 72-69, once again falling just three points short of victory. 

On the men’s side, the Heat came in hot in the first half. Once again, UBC’s Brian Wallack responded with intensity, but the Heat managed to stay within five points as they entered the second half. In the fourth quarter, both sides went back and forth, and UBCO’s Hafith Moallin splashed a three-pointer to tie the game at 88 with less than a minute of the game remaining. Moallin’s clutch basket was still not enough. The Thunderbirds kept steady in the final seconds and took a four-point lead to win the game 92-88.

Although the Heat were unable to win their games over the weekend, they demonstrated a great amount of skill and determination. We saw an exceptional performance from Jaeli Ibbetson, and the women’s team raised over $6,000 to support the Canadian Cancer Society, which is a huge win in itself.

If you would like to learn more about Shoot for the Cure, you can find more information here.