MacEwan Athletics and Pronghorns Athletics
LETHBRIDGE – Observers kept waiting for the favoured Lethbridge Pronghorns to leave the winless MacEwan Griffins in the dust on Saturday night after they blew them out by 38 on Friday.
It didn't happen.
Showing off the quickest ball movement they've displayed so far this Canada West men's basketball season, the Griffins were within four points with five minutes left before gambling to catch up led to a score that belied how close the game really was – 96-79 for the 'Horns.
"They hit a three and then a two to put it to nine and we just started running out of possessions," said MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz. "So, we started gambling and taking some quick shots and it led to them getting some quick points."
Zac Overwater bucketed a game-high 22 points for the Pronghorns, while adding 11 rebounds for a double-double. Eric Pierce also accomplished the feat for the home side with 15 points and 10 boards, while Mike Pierzchala scored 20, spurred by 3-for-8 three-point shooting.
The 'Horns improve to 2-0 with the result, while the Griffins fell to 0-4.
"After jumping on them early, I was disappointed that we let them get back into the game," said Pronghorns head coach Mike Hansen. "We really responded in the second half and Mike Pierzchala's charge really fired the team up.
"We continue to do some really good things, now we just have to find our consistency."
The Griffins had their best offensive performance of the season with five different players hitting double digits. Dustin Gatzki led the way with 15 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Liban Yousef came off the bench to produce 14 points, six boards, four assists and two steals in 23 minutes.
"That was a huge part of it – just being able to have multiple people make impacts on the game and do it in a variety of ways. Fifth-year Harrison Lane, who hasn't been a huge scorer for us throughout his career, comes in and steps up, has a big three, creates some post-up and generates a lot of different offence for his teammates.
"It was just contagious on our team tonight to be aggressive and share the ball."
It's a big reason why the Griffins never went away, which is exactly the type of performance that Magdanz has been waiting for after they were beaten by 29, 51 and 38 points in their first three games.
"Our ball movement was phenomenal tonight," he said. "We did a great job attacking their pressure and moving the ball to create open shots for others. And then we attacked the basket we made the decision that we were going to finish through people, not around.
"That level of aggression just radiated through everything we did. That made a huge difference."
While there will no doubt be plenty of positive takeaways for the Griffins out of the contest, a loss is still a loss in the Canada West standings. They're still searching for their first win of the season and need to learn a lesson out of their latest loss on how to turn close games in their favour instead.
"Really, it comes down to us being confident in our shooting ability and being confident attacking the rack," said Magdanz. "You look in the first half and I think we shoot 6-of-12 from three. In the second half, we go 2-for-16.
"So, getting that level of consistency in our game where we get the great ball movement throughout and having confidence in our game to finish those plays will get us over the top."
While the Pronghorns hit the road next weekend to visit the UBC-Okanagan Heat, the Griffins return to Edmonton to host the Winnipeg Wesmen on Nov. 9-10.