Costly turnovers hold Griffins back in 100-93 loss to Spartans

Dustin Gatzki, seen in action against TRU earlier this month, led the Griffins wit 17 points on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).
Dustin Gatzki, seen in action against TRU earlier this month, led the Griffins wit 17 points on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

-With files from TWU Athletics

LANGLEY, B.C. – Costly turnovers at inopportune times spoiled a night where six different Griffins hit double digits for points as MacEwan fell 100-93 to the Trinity Western Spartans in Canada West men's basketball action on Saturday night.

The Griffins were playing catch-up for the entire fourth quarter after two costly late third-quarter turnovers turned a four-point game into an eight-point one.

And then the dagger with 16 seconds left as Deonte Doslov-Doctor, trying to hustle up the court to pull the Griffins within three points, had his pocket picked in his own end by Ja'Qualyn Gilbreath, who then dunked it to put the game officially out of reach.

"We turned it over and gave them a layup when we still had a chance and it was over," lamented MacEwan head coach Mike Connolly. "We had 22 turnovers – a lot of them at costly times – and that's what hurt us."

Gilbreath hurt them, too, with a career-high 37-point performance that led the Spartans to a weekend sweep over the Griffins – their first two-win weekend since February 2013. On Friday night, TWU's 109-97 victory over MacEwan busted their 27-game losing streak.

Neither factoid is something the Griffins wanted any part of as they head into the semester break alone in the Canada West cellar at 0-8. TWU is now 2-6.

"It doesn't matter who we play, it's disappointing when you lose," said Connolly. "But we're trying to work, we're trying to change some culture. We've just got to be patient and stay the course because this is a long haul. It's not like we're expected to win a national championship in the first year. If we can create some things and move forward … We're getting better and better.

"Last night we had a lead for 33 minutes and tonight we played well right to the end and had a chance to win. We just made some mistakes. We've got to do a better job focusing and coaches can do a better job coaching up and maybe try some different rotations. We've got to coach and put people in positions to succeed."

On the positive end of the scale for MacEwan, they had six players in double digits. Dustin Gatzki led the way with 17 points, Abdullah Shittu had 16, Doslov-Doctor 15, Gregoire Piche-Wint 12 and both Alex Jap and Mason Hunter with 10. Jake Notice produced seven points and 10 rebounds in 18 minutes on the court in his first weekend back after a hand injury that cost him the balance of the first semester.

"I think Dustin Gatzki is starting to break out and Abdullah Shittu has started to step up," said Connolly. "This is Abdullah's team. He had 31 last night. He got into a little bit of foul trouble early tonight, but he's matured and grown and didn't let it affect him. He came in and made some big buckets down the stretch.

"We did some good things and then in some moments did some bad things. We've got to fix that inconsistency."

Gilbreath's big night for TWU included seven assists, nine rebounds and four steals. His 37 points were the most by a TWU player since Vartan Tanielian dropped 38 on MacEwan back on Feb. 3, 2018.

"What do you say, I think this is his third straight 30-point game," said TWU head coach Trevor Pridie. "Once the fourth quarter came, I was pretty confident he would close it out for us. His decision making continues to get better, and when the ball is in his hands in the fourth quarter, I think everyone is feeling comfortable.

"He was phenomenal once again this weekend, and he's in the midst of a really good three game stretch."

MacEwan will be back at home in their first action of the second semester, hosting the Manitoba Bisons on Jan. 3-4. TWU hosts Saskatchewan on those same dates.