Griffins' grit shows up too late in 71-63 loss to visiting Pronghorns

Paige Knull looks for an opening against Lethbridge's Katie Keith on Satuday. Knull had a game-high 24 points for the Griffins (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Paige Knull looks for an opening against Lethbridge's Katie Keith on Satuday. Knull had a game-high 24 points for the Griffins (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The missing grit and intensity that defines the MacEwan Griffins' swarming defence at its best finally came out of its shell in the second half in Saturday's Canada West women's basketball game.

Bodies were laying out on the floor, shots were contested, steals were had.

Unfortunately, it was all just too little, too late for the Griffins as the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns built 17-point lead at half-time and survived the pressure to post a 71-63 victory.

The win gives the Pronghorns a weekend sweep and pushes their perfect record to 4-0.

"We're really pleased to come here and get a win against a gritty, tough, going-to-grind it out MacEwan team," said Pronghorns head coach Dave Adams. "We knew they were going to show up again today and defend their house. We anticipated there was going to be a good strong push from them in the second half, so that wasn't a surprise.

"MacEwan did such a better job late of executing and getting looks deep around the hoop. That's where they made a nice push to put themselves back in it. It's a situation where they could have won that game."

Ultimately, the Griffins were derailed by a slow start, as Friday's shooting star Danielle Fritzke hit all three of her three-pointers in the contest in the first quarter to stake the Pronghorns to a 13-point lead. MacEwan slowed down Lethbridge's shooters after that, but they were playing catch-up the rest of the contest.

"Lethbridge took over where they left off yesterday," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams of the Pronghorns' 69-53 win. "They hit some shots and we needed to adjust. We had our game plan and tried to stick to it. But they hit shots. You have to give them credit for putting us on our heels early.

"At half-time, I said to them 'this game's not over. We've got to chip away. Let's take five-minute periods and just chip away – win each five-minute period.' And we did. The result's the same, but I think our effort … as crazy as it sounds, the way we lost was different and we can take a lot more pride in that."

Kacie Bosch led the Pronghorns with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Fritzke had 14 points. With the win, they will have at least a share of first place in Canada West after all the Saturday action shakes out.

"It's been a work in progress," said Dave Adams. "To speak a little of where we've been – I've been in the program just a little over two years. And I hate to say it, but when we started we were literally the worst team in the country – 47 out of 47.

"The great part is you've only got one place to go and that's up. We liked our preseason. We're happy to have a good start. Honestly, to come on the road and beat a good MacEwan team in their gym, we're thrilled."

For the Griffins, who fall to 0-4, they at least have some building blocks after finally finding that trademark intensity they've been lacking at times this season.

"We say all along if we can get stops on D and make the opponent take tough shots, it's going to help us on offence," said Katherine Adams. "The other big difference we had today was we really had an inside presence. Shannon (Majeau) and Hallie (Watt), both first-year kids, came in and played 20-22 minutes and really had a presence inside, had a presence on the boards, which made a big difference for us. That opens up opportunities for Kayla (Ivicak), Paige (Knull) and our other guards, who like to be slashers, drivers and get to the rim."

Knull was the biggest beneficiary, scoring a game-high 24 points– including 19 in the second half – adding three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Senior forward Kerilynn MacLennan added 10 points, while Ivicak had nine rebounds, seven points, three assists and three steals.

Watt chipped in four points, four assists, three rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes, while Majeau had four points and three rebounds in 20 minutes.

Next up for the Griffins is a visit to Manitoba on Nov. 10-11, while Lethbridge has a home-and-home series against Mount Royal University on Nov. 9 at home and Nov. 11 in Calgary.

FREE THROWS … Following the game, the MacEwan City Centre gym was officially renamed in honour of President Emeritus David Atkinson, who joined current MacEwan President Deborah Saucier for a ceremony at centre court … Atkinson, who was MacEwan's President from 2011-2017, started his career at the University of Lethbridge and was there from 1976 to 1991 … He posed at centre court for a special photo with all four basketball teams.