Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Given how dramatic the finish was at the David Atkinson gym on Saturday night, you half expected the MacEwan Griffins to hoist Paige Knull onto their shoulders and carry her into a sea of chanting fans.
OK, that might only happen at the conclusion of cheesy sports movies, but Knull certainly will never forget the moment. With just seconds remaining, she picked the pocket of UNBC's Maria Mongomo and raced in alone for a game-winning layup with 0.8 seconds left on the clock to secure a 59-57 win for the homestanding Griffins.
"In our timeout right before we said we had to lock down on D and get a stop," said Knull. "My teammates have been great at pumping me up, playing on a really tough offensive player.
"It's exciting that I knocked down the layup, but it was honestly such a team win.
"The whole weekend, it felt like we were a unit. We were all looking to attack, looking to score. We had first-year players that stepped up huge. I just thought all-around it was a great team win."
Well accustomed to the type of gritty game it takes to succeed in the Canada West women's basketball loop, Knull was given the task of slowing down Mongomo, one of the conference's toughest players.
"I'm so proud of her," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "She worked her butt off this weekend defending Mongomo. I thought she did an excellent job of sticking with her for 32 minutes today. I know she was a bit frustrated because she didn't feel like she was contributing at the offensive end. I said to her at halftime 'let it come. You're giving us everything you have right now and you're doing a great job.' And her opportunity came."
Knull ended up with seven points, eight rebounds, eight assists and single steal that was the play of the night.
That the game was tied with 13.4 seconds left, though, was a credit to the Timberwolves.
As the Griffins found some rhythm on offence early in the fourth quarter, they built a 16-point lead with 7:33 remaining.
But the T'Wolves went to a full-court press and the Griffins unraveled under the weight of eight late turnovers and a number of missed shots. In fact, prior to Knull's game-winning layup, MacEwan was outscored 20-4 down the stretch and just escaped by the skin of their teeth.
Asked what happened to force the dramatic comeback, UNBC head coach Sergey Shchepotkin simply stated: "Nothing. Just started playing – started normal playing. That's what we did."
Mongomo scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the waning minutes of the fourth, including all three of her treys on the evening. She added eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Madison Landry and Alina Shakirova each had 11 points for UNBC.
The Griffins were led by point guard Kristen Monfort-Palomino, who scored 12 points and had four steals, three rebounds and three assists. Kerilynn MacLennan and Mackenzie Farmer each had 10 points. Rookie Shannon Majeau also made a big impact on the game, helping to limit UNBC star post player Vasiliki Louka to eight points and scoring six of her own.
"She had a great weekend," said Adams. "It's not always stuff you see looking at the stats sheet, but the way she defended was tough and gritty. She made life tough for the opposition. People don't get the recognition they deserve for that. But man, she battled.
"I thought all our kids battled," she added. "They really had each other's back. At the end of the game there, things didn't go how we'd planned or wanted to, but you find a way to get it done. That really speaks to the chemistry this group has and their will to want to play with and for one another."
With the victory, the Griffins complete a weekend sweep of the Timberwolves and move to 3-5 in the Canada West standings. UNBC falls back to 3-7.
MacEwan will next hit the road for two games at Winnipeg Dec. 1-2 in their last action before the break. UNBC will travel to Thompson Rivers on the same dates.