Griffins battle Cougars tooth and nail but fall short of first win of season in 86-79 defeat

Deonte Doslov-Doctor, left, and Abdullah Shittu keep an eye on a Regina player during Saturday's match (Arthur Images/Regina Cougars).
Deonte Doslov-Doctor, left, and Abdullah Shittu keep an eye on a Regina player during Saturday's match (Arthur Images/Regina Cougars).

MacEwan Athletics and Regina Athletics

REGINA – A one-possession affair well into the fourth quarter before Regina got some key stops and hit a few late shots, the MacEwan Griffins went down fighting in their final game before the semester break, suffering an 86-79 defeat on Saturday.

While they will finish off the first semester slate without a win (0-12), that battle level is something Griffins head coach Eric Magdanz can pull some positives out of.

"Honestly, I was really proud of our fight tonight, I was really proud of our resolve," he said. "Just down the stretch, they hit a couple of shots and we didn't end up matching them, so it ended up going in their favour.

"All in all, I'm proud of how we fought through this first semester and there's a ton of upside for us to look forward to with this group of athletes in the future."

The Griffins shot 48.3 per cent from the field and racked up 42 rebounds to Regina's 37, but they committed 24 turnovers – a familiar Achilles' heel.

"That's probably one reason we lost, and their hot shooting is the other one," said Magdanz. "But I honestly thought we defended well and turnovers were far less of a factor tonight. A number of those came at the end when we were pressing and trying to get quick, easy baskets.

"Throughout the majority of the game, we actually handled their pressure and took care of the ball really well. We moved the ball exceptionally well tonight and got ourselves some open shots. And we got scoring from a number of different places."

Jake Notice led the Griffins with 21 points – the sixth time in the last seven games he has scored at least 20 in a game – as he pushed his team-leading scoring average to 16.9. Abdullah Shittu had 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, while Deonte Doslov-Doctor chipped in 13 and Luke Harold had 12 in a stellar return to his hometown.

Brayden Kuski came off the bench to lead Regina in scoring, hitting three triples and finishing with 18 points and four steals. Greishe Clerjuste, who hit two three-pointers during a late-game 10-0 run that sealed the win for Regina, added 15 points. Benjamin Hillis scored 13 and both Matt Barnard and Myles Hamilton finished with 10 points.

"Full credit to MacEwan, and we were fortunate enough to get stops down the stretch," Cougars head coach Steve Burrows said. "It was a typical Saturday night game in our league, and I was proud of our guys for being able to maintain composure when we needed it the most."

Winners of seven of their past eight games and tied for third in Canada West in terms of winning percentage, the Cougars will take a 7-3 record into the December break. They'll have some time off before returning to the court at a non-conference tournament hosted by Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif. later this month. The Cougars will resume Canada West play on Jan. 4-5 at Victoria.

MacEwan will resume the hunt for their first win when they return to action at home against Calgary on the Jan. 11-12 weekend.

"We've improved immensely over this first semester," said Magdanz. "Over half the people we brought on this trip were first and second years alone and for us to be able to compete and give meaningful minutes to those athletes is going to pay dividends in the future.

"We have to look at building a multi-year program and we have a group of athletes we can do that with now. That's a big step forward for us to do that as a contributing member in Canada West with a goal of one day competing for a conference championship."