Seniors come up big in final home game as Griffins survive late Bobcats rally to win 61-59

Kayla Ivicak drives around the Brandon defence on Saturday night. She scored 16 points in her final home game (Eduardo Perez photo).
Kayla Ivicak drives around the Brandon defence on Saturday night. She scored 16 points in her final home game (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Kayla Ivicak scored 16 points in the final home game of her MacEwan career as the Griffins survived a late rally from the Brandon Bobcats to eke out a 61-59 win in Canada West women's basketball action on Saturday night.

That keeps their fledgling playoff hopes alive by moving to 6-12 – tied with the Winnipeg Wesmen for the last post-season spot – but since they trail the Wesmen in RPI, they'll have to finish ahead of them when the curtain closes on the 2018-19 regular season next weekend.

MacEwan visits Victoria (10-8) for two games, while Winnipeg plays a home-and-home against rival Manitoba (8-10).

After losing in disappointing fashion on Saturday when Laney Harder stole an inbounds pass with 1.6 seconds left only to run out of time to attempt a game-tying shot, the Bobcats were forced to settle for a weekend split with MacEwan. They're now 3-15 and will miss the playoffs.

"I'm disappointed," said Brandon head coach Novell Thomas. "We're not playing to feel good about being close. We're here to win and I felt as though we had opportunities to win and we didn't."

The team that did, though, breathed a bit of a sigh of relief as the Griffins saw a 14-point third-quarter advantage nearly evaporate in the final six-and-a-half minutes when their shooting went cold and Brandon's, aided by three late offensive rebounds, found a way to click.

"You don't always have to win pretty, but it's certainly a good response for us from yesterday," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams after they lost to the Bobcats 57-47. "We did enough to stick it out – obviously not the way we wanted to finish, but we know teams are never going to roll over and go away easily.

"Brandon hit some big shots down the stretch and got stops when they needed to, and we didn't. We made it a little more exciting than we hoped for."

Brandon went on a 13-1 run to knot the score at 56 with 3:31 left, making it a dogfight to the finish. The Bobcats got back into it by picking up three-straight offensive rebounds – two of them backbreakers off their own missed free-throw shots.

"There were some good effort plays down the stretch," said Thomas. "The offensive rebounds were huge, but we had a layup and another opportunity, and we didn't capitalize. For me, that's what sticks out. You do all that work to be in a position to win and we didn't capitalize."

It would be the final bucket in the David Atkinson Gym for one of MacEwan's three graduating seniors – Kristen Monfort-Palomino – that decided the contest. She hit a shot with 1:12 left and no one scored again.

"Kristen hit some big shots for us coming off screen," said Adams. "She was 4-for-8 and had some big pull-ups in key moments that really helped increase the lead. The she hit the winning shot."

Monfort-Palomino finished with eight points off the bench, while fellow graduate Ivicak had eight rebounds and three steals to go along with her 16.

"Kayla is Kayla," said Adams. "You know what you're going to get from her. She does what she does well, and we rely on that day-in and day-out to lead us."

Anna Mbuyi, MacEwan's other graduate, chipped in three points and a block before going down with an injury that stopped the game early in the fourth quarter.

"I thought Anna came in and had a good day for us," said Adams. "It's unfortunate how it ended for her, but up until that point gave us what she good to add value to today's performance."

Brandon was led by their own fifth-year senior Lauren Anderson, who recorded another double double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, adding four assists and two blocks. Hailey Maas and Adrianna Proulx each had 11 points.

"She's putting it all out there for us, which is huge," Thomas said of Anderson. "Statistically, we need her to be strong – passing the ball, rebounding the ball especially. We'll have to regroup and figure out how we're going to take on Mount Royal."

Brandon will close out the season at home on Feb. 1-2 vs. MRU.