Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Beyond Katherine Adams' usual preparations for a basketball weekend – video work, planning and executing practice, etc. – she's been hunkered down figuring out RPI formulas and records against common opponents.
She knows the Griffins will need to win at least one game, if not both, against the Victoria Vikes in their final weekend of the Canada West women's basketball regular season if they hope to catch a playoff spot. The 6-12 Griffins will visit the 10-8 Vikes on Friday (7 p.m. MT) and Saturday (6 p.m. MT, both games on Canada West TV).
MacEwan is currently tied for the 12th and final playoff spot with Winnipeg (6-12), which has a home-and-home series against Manitoba (8-10), a team also trying to clinch a post-season berth.
Canada West tiebreakers go first by head-to-head record, secondly by record against common opponents and then by RPI, a complex system in place to alternatively determine a team's strength because not everyone plays everyone else in a single season.
MacEwan and Winnipeg split the season series, but the Griffins currently trail in record vs. common opponents (3-5 for Winnipeg and 1-5 for MacEwan with the Victoria series this weekend yet to factor into it). They also trail the Wesmen in RPI (.444 to .420).
Clearly, the Griffins' best chance at a playoff spot is to finish ahead of the Wesmen in the standings.
Where the math gets really interesting is if all three of Manitoba, Winnipeg and MacEwan end up at 8-12 with only two of those teams getting into the playoffs.
But horses are going before carts here.
While there's no doubt the Griffins will be doing some scoreboard watching (Game 1 of the Winnipeg-Manitoba series is on Thursday night), they chiefly must worry about themselves.
"There's two parts to it," acknowledged Adams. "One, obviously we'll have a watchful eye what's going on around the conference, but really it's about us and us putting together performances.
"We have no control over (what happens in Winnipeg) and need to really focus on just going out and doing what we need to do to prepare ourselves to play our best games at the end of the season here."
The Griffins have had stretches of dominant play, particularly from the defensive end of the floor, but consistency has long been their challenge. They're coming off a 61-59 win over Brandon in their last outing where that defensive shape showed up enough to power them to victory.
"It certainly was an emotional weekend for the Griffins family given everything that happened," said Adams after MacEwan men's hockey player Nakehko Lamothe passed away following a game on Friday. "Our ability to stay focused on the task at hand and have a good performance was good.
"We know our situation, we know where we're at, so we're not going to come out and do anything different than we've done all season," she added. "We know where our strengths lie. We need to continue to work on being a tough, gritty defensive team and try to use that to generate some scoring for us. Ultimately, though, nothing changes. You can't go into the last weekend of the year thinking that you have a different approach. We know who we are, we know what we do well and we're going to stick with it."
What they are is a gritty defensive team, trying to stop opponents from scoring. Ironically, Victoria is built to be just the opposite – an offensive juggernaut led by top-four Canada West scorer Amira Giannattasio, who is averaging 18.4 points per game.
"It's definitely a tall task," said Adams of the challenge posed by the Vikes – a program the Griffins have met in the playoffs their last two times out (2015-16 and 2016-17). "They have a good team, they can score. They have five players averaging double figures. So, it's certainly a tough defensive task for us to not just take away one or two or three scorers but multiple scorers."