Stifling defensive effort a moral victory for Griffins in 61-39 loss to Dinos

Kayla Ivicak drives against Calgary's Reyna Crawford on Saturday. She had a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for her sixth double double of the season (Chris Piggott photo).
Kayla Ivicak drives against Calgary's Reyna Crawford on Saturday. She had a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for her sixth double double of the season (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Holding an opponent below 40 points for the first time this season should be cause for celebration in the University of Calgary Dinos women's basketball camp.

But after their 61-39 victory over the MacEwan Griffins on Saturday night, it was more a feeling of relief.

With a stifling defensive effort, the underdog home side was within eight points halfway through the fourth quarter (trailing 41-33 with 5:10 left) before a late run of three-pointers and transition buckets sealed the deal for the visiting Dinos.

If not for that late run, the Griffins would have held the Dinos to their lowest offensive output of the season. As it stands, it's Calgary's second lowest to the 58 points they put up in a November loss to Saskatchewan.

"I think ultimately from the off and pretty much from the last quarter of yesterday, MacEwan did a wonderful job just stifling our ability to find gaps," said Dinos head coach Damian Jennings. "I don't think I've been a game with so many 24-second shot clock (violations) or some mess of a shot that's taken within 23 seconds. That's a testament to how they're coached, and I thought they did an awesome job.

"I think in the end, we were able to just play with that full court pressure," he continued. "Just having those layers of defence give us a bit more offence, we were able to get some stuff at the rim and were able to drop a couple threes as well."

To be exact, the Dinos his five of them in the last half of the fourth quarter, and the Griffins, who saw a few layup attempts rattle off the glass or window and out, were unable to keep pace.

"We ran out of gas a little bit, just (needing to be) half a second sooner on a close out," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "They hit a bunch of threes in the last five minutes that really shut the door. We were knocking, and we kept saying, 'just chip away, chip away.'

"We got it to eight. Then they came down and hit threes. That's what good teams do."

Calgary improves to 13-3 after the result, while MacEwan falls to 4-10 in the Canada West standings.

Bobbi Jo Colburn led the Dinos with 15 points and five steals, while Erin McIntosh had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Kayla Ivicak had a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds as she accounted for nearly half of the Griffins' offence in posting her sixth double-double of the season. She added three steals in 35 minutes of work.

"That's the Kayla we know and love and are used to seeing," said Adams. "Obviously, she's so big for what we do."

Defence will be the biggest takeaway for the Griffins as the young team came into the game looking grown up overnight. The Dinos blanketed the Griffins with a full-court press to win on Friday, but the home side came into Saturday matching their intensity and even exceeding it.

"I'm very proud of our defensive effort today," said Adams. "I thought the girls battled hard, they were tough. They were a little bit sharper and crisper with the game plan than yesterday.

"We pride ourselves on being tough and gritty and I thought we really showcased that today against a very talented team."

Jennings noted his team can learn from the defensive effort put forward by the Griffins as they head down the stretch in a season they're very much a contender for the Canada West crown.

"I've got a lot of respect for how they played," he said. "Technically, as well as tactically, they played very well. We want to do that, too. Well, you can say we held them to 39 points and the night before a low-40s game, but I thought they were the most impressive defensive team.

"For me, it's learn from your opponents. We've got to be able to battle. You want to have that finesse and that flow, but you also want to be the aggressor. We learn in these games, too."

The learning curve continues for the Griffins, who are full of players in their first or second years of eligibility.

"We were just saying as a coaching staff, the growth for us this weekend was tremendous," said Adams. "Obviously, we have some fifth-year leaders who are a big part of what we do, but for some of our younger athletes to have this opportunity to compete and contribute and find ways to battle against a team of this calibre is really going to help us moving forward."

Next up for the Griffins is a road trip to Kelowna, B.C. to play the UBC-Okanagan Heat on Jan. 18-19. The Dinos, meanwhile, head into a bye week before resuming action in Abbotsford, B.C. against UFV on Jan. 25-26.