Jason Hills, For MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON — This is a game tape that MacEwan Griffins head coach Katherine Adams may want to keep and show at a critical juncture of the 2019-20 Canada West regular season.
On a night when their offence struggled to get out of neutral, the MacEwan Griffins relied heavily on their stingy defence and grinned out a hard-fought, blue collar effort in a 65-53 victory over the Mount Royal Cougars in their season opener Friday night at the David Atkinson gymnasium.
Maddison Hooper recorded 17 points in the loss for Mount Royal.
"It was definitely a grind," said Adams.
"We played a team that can shoot the ball and is tough and scrappy and there were times where they were more physical than us and they got on some runs, but we found a way to step up in the moments we needed to."
While the Griffins may have struggled scoring, they did get big contributions from young veterans Shannon Majeau and Hayley Lalor, who contributed 14 and 11 points respective. Lalor also chipped in with seven rebounds.
"We know we always have to defend tough," said Adams.
"We've never been a team that scores a ton of points. We really pride ourselves on being a tough and gritty team. Tonight, we created some good looks and found a way and we had four players tonight in double figures, and I don't think we've had that in my time here.
"Looking back and seeing moments of growth. There were some really big moments for some of our young players tonight and I hope it can be a real spring board for us."
After a quick start, MacEwan gave up an 11-0 run in the late stages of the first quarter to trail 20-15. Their tough and rugged defence kept the game tight going into halftime as they trailed just 34-31.
In the second half, the Griffins offence started to come to life and on the defensive side of the ball, they continued to wreak havoc on the Cougars.
They forced 28 turnovers, and scored 21 points off the costly mistakes by Mount Royal.
They gave up just 19 points in the second half.
"There were lots of nerves that I didn't like, obviously. I thought our preseason play was good, really positive, but we struggled today just to stay calm," said Cougars head coach Robyn Fleckenstein.
"They got worked up and it wasn't fun for them. We've got to breathe through those errors and just play basketball. It's supposed to be a game. It's supposed to be a little bit fun. That's going to be our big message."
One area that Fleckenstein can be pleased with is her production from her bench. Mount Royal got 31 bench points in the loss.
She'll be looking for more production from her starters as Hooper was the Cougars only real scoring threat as she hit five treys in the loss.
"I think that's what Maddy always gives us. She's just a workhorse. She knows what she does well, and she gives it to us every night," said Fleckenstein.
After a Hooper three-pointer in the opening minute of the third quarter, Mount Royal's offence went ice cold. They didn't get their next bucket until just over one minute left in the quarter. MacEwan's defence came up big and they started to gain more confidence offensively.
"We found our groove in that third quarter and put our foot down a little bit and started to make things happen offensively," said Adams.
"We talk about what you can bring to the team and it doesn't always have to be scoring. To see Maddie crash the boards like that and lead our team in rebound and the amount of havoc that Hayley (Lalor) creates when she's on the floor. Those types of efforts are huge."
MacEwan and Mount Royal will wrap up their weekend series on Saturday at 12 p.m. (David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).