Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – A night after being held scoreless, Kayla Ivicak rebounded with a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double to pace the MacEwan Griffins to a 63-62 win over the visiting UFV Cascades in Canada West women's basketball action on Saturday at the David Atkinson Gym.
The fifth-year forward from St. Albert sealed the victory by hitting three free throws in the final 24 seconds, one coming after being fouled securing a defensive rebound.
Kate Head bucketed a three-pointer at the buzzer for the Cascades to make it a one-point result.
"I think today, the big solution was finding other people to step up," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "Our posts today had 12 points combined, Hannah (Gibb) stepped up and had 12.
"We had different people chip in and when people are able to score, it takes the load off Kayla and allows her to do what she does best, which is get to the rebounds, be tough and gritty and find those openings when other people are occupied."
With the result, MacEwan improves to 2-6 in the standings, while UFV falls to 3-5.
Griffins' second-year guard Gibb had 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting from the three-point line after being given the first start of her Canada West career.
"It was nice she put me in, so I thought I should do something, I guess," she cracked.
"When our team moves the ball, it's helpful to get those open looks. I couldn't do it without them getting me the ball."
Griffins' third-year post Ellie McCarthy had one of the best outings of her career with seven points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench, using her size to box out the Cascades.
For UFV, fourth-year forward Taylor Claggett had another big game, leading the Cascades with 23 points, adding nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
As much as Claggett was key early for UFV – scoring nine points in the first quarter – it was rookie guard Abby Zawada who ignited a fourth-quarter run with three of her five treys in the final 10 minutes. She had another one rattle in and out with 11 seconds left that would have tied the game, but still finished with 17 points.
"It's a lot of pressure to put onto first-year kid," said Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer. "It's her fifth or sixth game that she's played and we're asking her to do a lot already.
"We drew up a play for her there and it broke down a little bit, but she had the presence of mind to still get a shot off. It just about went in, but it is what it is."
UFV led the game for most of the first half and were up by nine midway through the second quarter, seemingly on their way again after beating the Griffins 58-41 on Friday. But this time the Griffins wouldn't go away, battling back to take us much as a seven-point advantage of their own late in the third quarter.
"I thought we had a stretch in the second quarter when we had a nine-point lead and we had some defensive breakdowns and they stormed back ... and we lost a little bit of our momentum at that point," said Tuchscherer. "Still, there were chances for us in the second half to still win the game. We had the lead for a while.
"They just played hard tonight. MacEwan, they wanted the game, and they played hard."
Hard and smart. Costly turnovers have plagued the Griffins this season, but on Saturday, they only committed a season-low 16 of them (to UFV's 17).
"That's huge," said Adams. "That gives us an opportunity to score, which we know is an area we've struggled with all year.
"Another area that's important to note is we had a season-high 17 assists," she added. "Our connection and working with one another has been a huge emphasis. That just shows we're willing to share the ball and find teammates."
While MacEwan's shooting wasn't red hot, you couldn't describe it as cold either as they outpaced UFV 32.4% to 29.3% from the field. That led to a close win, which may just turn their season fortunes around.
"I'm incredibly proud," said Adams. "They battled, and they fought, and we made some adjustments and just talked about some key areas we needed to be better in. They really responded well tonight.
"It was a tight game throughout the whole thing and to get stops and scores when we needed it was huge."
Next up for the Griffins is a visit to Calgary to face the Mount Royal Cougars on Nov. 23-24, while UFV will return home to host UNBC on the same dates.