Griffins drop foul-filled war of attrition to cross-town rival Pandas in home opener

Kayla Ivicak gets off a shot in front of Alberta's Jenna Harpe on Saturday afternoon (Eduardo Perez photo).
Kayla Ivicak gets off a shot in front of Alberta's Jenna Harpe on Saturday afternoon (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – There was no 35-point quarter in Saturday's rematch against cross-town rival MacEwan like the one the Alberta Pandas manufactured during a hot shooting stretch at home on Thursday night.

"It may never happen again in my career," quipped Alberta women's basketball head coach Scott Edwards of his team's 15-for-18 stretch.

Instead, a war of attrition became the game script as the Pandas chipped away, played solid defence and eventually scored an 18-point victory over the Griffins at the David Atkinson Gym – 74-56 – to move them to 2-0 on the young Canada West campaign.

"I think for both teams it was a struggle to get any flow in that basketball game," said Edwards. "But I thought our kids read better. There's some good video for us to learn from today and apply to our next opponent. It was good to see us get out and score this weekend."

Third-year veteran Emma Kary – the Pandas leading scorer from a year ago – paced Alberta with 15 points, adding nine rebounds. Lauren Early chipped in 10 points and Jenna Harpe had nine points, four assists and two steals.

Playing in their home opener, the Griffins (0-2) had moments in the contest where they played even with Alberta, but a scoreless stretch of more than four minutes in the first quarter put them behind the 8-ball. They also struggled at times with the Pandas' speed in fast-break transition to fall behind by as much as 22 points in the second half.

"I think it stemmed from some our live ball turnovers that allowed them to go and attack in transition," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "That puts us in a disadvantaged situation which always puts you under the pump a little bit.

"Some of our shot selection … we struggled at the offensive end again," she added. "When you're having to put up shots at the end of the clock or you're not quite taking the predictable shots you want, it puts you again under the pump because they're able to rebound and transition the other way.

"I thought that kind of hurt us a little bit. I thought we were better in the transition game than we were Thursday night, so growth in that."

They were also slightly better in the turnover department as each team committed 23 of them.

MacEwan was led by fifth-year veteran Kayla Ivicak, who bucketed 11 points and had seven boards in 28 minutes. Starter Mackenzie Farmer had nine, while rookie Rachel Hare came off the bench to produce nine points in 15 minutes, five of those coming in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter.

"It was a good opportunity for her to gain some confidence and show she has something to contribute," Adams said of the top recruit from Kelowna, who was one of the best players in the B.C. high school ranks last season. "Hopefully, she can take this bit of momentum she brought in the fourth quarter and move forward into next weekend."

The contest dragged on due to multiple whistles and an extremely high foul count – 58 between the two teams, although remarkably not a single player fouled out. MacEwan ended the game with six players on four fouls, while Alberta had two.

"I don't think athletes on either side adjusted very well to how the game was being called and it's why we end up with a game like that," said Edwards. "Every possession seemed to get stopped and started, so that was a bit of a frustration for both teams."

Adams said it was challenging to string together plays in the contest.

"When there is no flow – and some of those things are out of your control – you have to find other ways to generate momentum and generate energy and create some scoring opportunities," said Adams. "I thought it took us a little bit to find that.

"You get some scoring opportunities and you miss and it's a bit deflating because you're like 'man, we've worked so hard to get this and then we don't get rewarded for it.' "

The Pandas made life difficult on the Griffins, though, with a solid defensive shape that needed quick ball movement to break down – something MacEwan didn't have enough of.

"I just thought we stayed pretty consistent with how we were defending their actions and I just think our kids really stepped up to the occasion there in the first three quarters," said Edwards. "I thought they did a really great job defensively and put them on their heels a bit.

"We found a way to get a score. It was kind of an ugly basketball game both ways, but I thought our defensive consistency was great today."

The Pandas next head to Calgary on Nov. 1 before hosting the Dinos on Nov. 3. MacEwan, meanwhile, will travel to Lethbridge for a pair of road contests on Nov. 2-3.