Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
WINNIPEG – For a while there, it looked like the MacEwan Griffins were going to bring the scoring average of reigning Canada West MVP Antoinette Miller down.
Midway through the second quarter on Friday night, the electric guard had scored just five points as the visitors were at their stifling, lane-clogging best early.
It didn't last long. Miller dropped 32 points – raising her season average from 25.9 per game to 26.5 – in leading the homestanding Wesmen to a 62-54 win.
"She's a very talented player," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams. "I thought Paige (Knull) did a great job one-on-one, but she's good enough that you can't just rely on someone to defend her one-on-one. We didn't commit to a team defensive plan well enough to take away those opportunities.
"I've said all along she's going to score – she's that good. You're not going to hold a player of her calibre scoreless. But it's just a team effort to force someone else to beat us."
The Griffins were sticking to their stingy game plan early and were set to lead the Wesmen at the half, save for a late three from Winnipeg's Robyn Boulanger that knotted it 29-29 halfway through.
But the third quarter got away from them as Winnipeg made a run and the Griffins' shooting touch fell cold. Then, down 53-44 heading into the fourth quarter, MacEwan didn't commit to the hard-edged basketball that makes them successful. They went quietly in the end, watching Miller dribble the ball in circles as the dying seconds wound off the clock.
"Yes, we didn't make shots, but we turned the ball over too much," said Adams. "We were a little bit undisciplined and gave them too many easy scores. They outscored us by a bunch that quarter and that was really our downfall.
"Another stat that really stands out – offensive rebounds," she added. "In the fourth quarter, we just gave them way too many second-chance opportunities. You do a great job forcing them into a tough shot first time around, but once you give them a second chance on a possession, the shooting percentage goes up. We weren't able to get it done that way."
Both Knull and Kayla Ivicak had 12 points for the Griffins, but the latter got into foul trouble early and played just 27 minutes, well below her season average.
That led to more playing time from some of the Griffins' younger players. Rookie Mackenzie Farmer, for one, took advantage with a team-high three steals to go with eight points, while Shannon Majeau and Hallie Watt logged 22 and 20 minutes, respectively.
"That's the message at the end of the game," said Adams. "It's not going to be one or two players that gets this done for us. We all have to contribute and play a role to make sure we secure possession for ourselves.
"It's been the story all of the first semester – finding people to step up and having the courage to help us at the offensive end."
With the loss, MacEwan falls to 3-6 on the campaign. They'll close out the first half of the season in Saturday's rematch at Winnipeg (7-4) at 4 p.m. MT (Canada West TV).