Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Fourth-year guard Kayla Ivicak broke the MacEwan school record for most double-doubles in a Canada West season with her ninth of the campaign as the Griffins threw a scare into one of the conference's top teams on Friday night.
Up as much as 12 points in the first quarter, the Griffins, who will miss the playoffs this season, had the Trinity Western Spartans on their heels early.
But the visitors broke down an aggressive MacEwan defence, found their shooting touch and ground out a 66-55 victory that keeps them alive for one of the first-round playoff byes that go to the conference's top-four teams.
"MacEwan has been a very good defensive team all season long," said Spartans head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul after her squad improved to 15-4 on the season. "They've shown this is a very difficult gym to come and score in. We were not sure what to do about it initially.
"We've been a high-tempo team all season long," she continued. "We have to move the ball, we have to move ourselves. I thought we were quite lethargic in the first quarter. I think it was just reminding them that this is not who we've been all season long, why start now?
"I think we responded to that. After that, we went back to what we do well."
And that's certainly shoot the three-pointer. Led by Jessie Brown's 4-for-7 effort from behind the arc, TWU drained eight treys to MacEwan's one – ultimately the difference in the game.
"We know the people who are supposed to take that shot," said Jean-Paul. "We try to work hard to create really good looks for them. It comes down to being able to knock it down.
"Obviously, it's a part of what we do. Transition is part of what we do. Our post play is part of what we do. We need all those parts to be functioning properly for us to do well."
Ivicak led the Griffins with 20 points and 11 rebounds for her ninth double-double in 19 games this season, breaking the school record of eight set by Kelly Fagan in 2014-15.
"I think it's pretty cool," said the St. Albert product. "To beat a record is awesome."
To put it in perspective, Ivicak checks in at just 5-foot-9, but is sixth in Canada West in rebounds (9.1 per game), while also sitting tied for fifth in steals (2.5). Pound-for-pound she might be the most versatile player in the conference.
"It's pretty impressive," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "I was actually looking at that stat the other day just to see her progression through the years.
"It's pretty impressive to see the growth that she's had because she only had three last year."
Graduating Griffins' seniors Paige Knull and Kerilynn MacLennan, playing in the second-last game of their university careers, added 15 and 10 points, respectively for MacEwan, which falls to 4-15 after the loss.
"It's Paige and Keri's last weekend. We're going out and winning the battle and playing the game we can," said Ivicak of the inspiration provided by the two fifth-years. "It was playing for them, playing for our team and I think we came together, we were moving the ball, we were helping each other out. It was, overall, a good game."
If only the Griffins could bottle the first quarter when they began with a 10-0 run and didn't allow the Spartans a field goal until there was 1:08 left in it.
"We found ways to score," said Adams. "We got Kayla and Paige going pretty early, which always helps. I thought we found them some pretty good looks near the rim, which was good. It helped us generate some easy scores early, but defensively we just lacked intensity.
"They're a very good shooting team," she added. "We gave up quarters of 25 and 23 where they scored 15 points from the three-point line. That's us not adjusting quick enough to what's working for them and forcing them to do something different."
The Spartans got the three-ball rolling and built as much as an 18-point lead on the backs of a late third-quarter 10-0 run that really put the game out of reach. Tessa Ratzlaff led TWU with 18 points, six boards, four assists, a steal and a block, while Brown bucketed 16 and Kianna Wiens chipped in nine points in 23 minutes off the bench.
"For us, it's about being able to get a first-round bye," said Jean-Paul. "That's what we're fighting for and to get as high a seed as possible when it comes to hosting at some point in time.
"There's so much that has been in our control – we had a very good semester and we were able to get the right wins at the right time. We didn't want to let down our momentum that we've been building all season long."
The teams will meet again on Saturday night (5 p.m., Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV), which will be MacEwan's Senior Night celebration.