Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – A racehorse had nothing on the pace of the fourth quarter between the MacEwan Griffins and UFV Cascades.
Between the visitors' electric point guard Parm Bains and his dizzying collection of stutter-steps and star British import Jake Notice's crafty repertoire of inside and outside creation for the home side, fans were treated to a wild final 10 minutes of Canada West men's basketball action at the David Atkinson Gym.
The Griffins tried like the dickens to rally from a 15-point mid-fourth deficit – hitting five three-pointers down the stretch – but they fell just short on the wrong side of an 84-80 score on Saturday night.
"Grant MacEwan's not going to give up," said UFV head coach Adam Friesen, whose team is back at .500 (4-4) after a weekend sweep of the Griffins. "They're going to continue playing and continue battling.
"On the road, you've got to be willing to grind games out and today was one of those games where that's what we had to do. It wasn't pretty, but you figure out how to get the job done through hard work and grit."
MacEwan suffered its eighth-straight defeat to open the season and head coach Eric Magdanz is surely tired of talking about moral victories, but there's no denying a fourth quarter where they shot 68.4% is a building block for a team that is on the cusp of the win column.
"It gives us a ton of confidence going into next weekend," he said. "Whenever you see the ball go in the hole, it just takes a weight off your shoulders and gives you a little more hope that the next one's going to fall."
They ultimately just ran out of time on Saturday as UFV countered MacEwan's furious trey storm with their forte: quick baskets in transition.
"Transition for us is always huge," said Friesen. "That's by far our greatest strength offensively. That starts with getting stops. I thought we did a decent job of that."
Mark Johnson led the Cascades with a double-double (20 points and 10 rebounds), while Sukhjot Bains had 15 points and seven boards, and Parm Bains chipped in 12 points and six assists in setting the table for what UFV wanted to do.
The key to the game for UFV was sprinting out of half-time up just one, taking advantage of some MacEwan mistakes to quickly push the lead into double digits in the third quarter.
"I don't think it was necessarily anything that we did," said Friesen. "As a group, we have some great leaders. We weren't overly pleased with the first half energy-wise. Our fifth-years really stepped up and challenged the group to play with a little bit more energy and heart. Usually when you do that, good things happen."
Magdanz pointed to the lost turnover battle as perhaps the biggest difference in the game.
"We had 22 turnovers tonight compared to six last night," he said. "Turnovers created transition for them and that transition led to baskets in their run to start the third quarter.
"For us, it's about maintaining our composure through times when we're not hitting shots."
Notice led the Griffins with 24 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Atlas St. Paul Butler, who caught fire from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter – going 4-for-7 in the game – had 16 points off the bench, while Liban Yousef added 11. Deonte Doslov-Doctor had nine assists and eight rebounds.
"We had a number of guys stepping up in the fourth quarter," said Notice. "We had first years. Luke Harold was in in the fourth quarter. He did a great job.
"It was really good to see that we can compete against teams that are towards the top of our league. This team beat U of A and we were there with them. It's something we can definitely build off of."
And that's what they aim to do. As tough as an 0-8 start is on the psyche of a team, the Griffins are keeping their chins up.
"Everybody's still got a very positive mindset," said Notice. "As soon as we got into that locker-room, people are still talking to each other about next week of practice. We're looking forward to the next game – nobody's really dwelling on this loss."
MacEwan will next head out on the road with a visit to Mount Royal University on Nov. 23-24, while UFV returns home to welcome UNBC on the same dates.