Griffins use defensive pressure, timely shots to push T-Birds to limit in tight loss

Kristen Monfort-Palomino secures a rebound for the Griffins against UBC on Saturday night (Bob Frid, UBC Thunderbirds).
Kristen Monfort-Palomino secures a rebound for the Griffins against UBC on Saturday night (Bob Frid, UBC Thunderbirds).

MacEwan Athletics and UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER – Holding the lead entering the fourth quarter behind a strong defensive effort and solid shooting, the MacEwan Griffins ran out of gas down the stretch, falling 58-52 to the UBC Thunderbirds in Canada West women's basketball action on Saturday night.

UBC's Dayna Pearce stepped up and jarred a three as the shot clock expired with 2:40 left to break open a 49-49 tie and propel the Thunderbirds to a victory.

"They had some big players make plays and we had some untimely turnovers," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams of how they fell behind at the end.

"We didn't quite have enough gas left in the tank to make the final push we needed."

Pearce had six of her nine points in the fourth quarter, but her trey was the key bucket that kick-started UBC's momentum.

"To be honest it was a bank shot, so I was a little lucky there, but I was pretty pumped because it changed the game a little bit and got us more motivated," she told UBC Athletics.

It was an entertaining back-and-forth first quarter with each team trading baskets throughout. The Griffins were feeling it from long range as they were a perfect three for three from three-point land in the frame. It began on the visitors first possession where Kristen Monfort-Palomino drained her attempt from beyond the arc while teammates Madison Chamberlin and Paige Knull would follow up by also converting from distance.

"It's something we've talked a lot about and looked at a lot of film – we're doing a good job getting into the paint and collapsing defences," said Adams. "Now we've got to work together and find each other to create some easier shots for ourselves.

"We had some of our young kids step up today and have the courage to shoot and have that scoring mentality. And we did. We dropped some shots, which was a welcome relief after some previous games where we struggled a little bit shooting from the outside."

Despite the loss, the positives abound for the Griffins. Kayla Ivicak tied a school record in the defeat, recording her eighth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds. That matches Kelly Fagan's MacEwan Canada West mark set in 2014-15 and Ivicak has four games left.

Defensively, the Griffins held two of UBC's big three scorers to single digits in points; only Maddison Penn had success against them with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

"We knew if we could keep the game low scoring we'd have a chance to be in it at the end," said Adams. "Our team defensive effort tonight was phenomenal.

"We said we want to force someone else to beat us. Granted they did, they had some other kids step up and score above their average, but that's OK, that's what we opted to go with."

The Griffins would keep the determination high in the second quarter outscoring the Thunderbirds 18-13, en route to 32-29 halftime advantage. Ivicak scored four of her 11 points in that quarter while Knull added four of her eight points on the evening.

The third quarter would see MacEwan maintain their three-point lead on the strength of Mackenzie Farmer pouring in six of her team high 14 points on the night followed by Chamberlin chipping in with three points and two rebounds.

"A lot of different people found ways to step up and contribute, whether it be on the scoreboard, rebounding, or really, really tough defensive assignments we had this weekend guarding UBC's potent scorers," said Adams.

"It was a good team effort and bounce back from yesterday, even though we didn't win."

With the result, the Griffins fall to 4-12 on the campaign and are in tough to crack the post-season picture – three games behind Thompson Rivers (7-9) for the last spot.

MacEwan will return home to host the Alberta Pandas on Thursday on White Out night (6 p.m., Atkinson Gym). Griffins athletes and coaches will be honoured in a special ceremony for awards they've won over the past year.