Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Spotting the Brandon Bobcats a 23-10 first-quarter lead, the MacEwan Griffins spent the final three quarters in rally mode on Friday night.
But behind a maelstrom of missed shots, turnovers and mounting fouls, they never could erase the deficit, falling 57-47 in Canada West women's basketball action at the David Atkinson Gym.
MacEwan's playoff chances took a hit with the defeat as their record drops to 5-12 after the setback to the 3-14 Bobcats, who snapped a seven-game losing streak.
"A similar story to what we've seen a lot all year, unfortunately, is we dig ourselves into a hole in the first quarter and are left trying to dig out of it," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "It's just a tough spot to be in.
"You'd hope by this point in the season we would have learned that lesson. But here we are."
Adrianna Proulx led the Bobcats with 16 points, doing all of her damage in the first three quarters, while Lauren Anderson recorded an 11-point, 11-rebound double double.
"We expect AP to score a lot for us and she looked comfortable and in rhythm tonight," said Brandon head coach Novell Thomas. "She hit some big shots for us early."
MacEwan was led by Kayla Ivicak's 12 points and 16 rebounds for her 20th career Canada West double double and seventh of the season. Kristen Monfort-Palomino chipped in 10 points, while Mackenzie Farmer had nine points and eight rebounds.
"We outrebounded them by 10, which is huge," said Adams. "We had 19 offensive rebounds, which was huge, but it just feels like we couldn't buy a bucket today.
"We had some good opportunities but didn't convert and ultimately when you shoot 23 per cent, you make life tough on yourself."
Brandon hit a bunch of big shots in the first quarter, catching MacEwan's usual tooth-and-nail defence napping, while the Griffins stayed on the perimeter and went stone cold (1-for-9) from beyond the arc.
"We prepared all week as we do every week," said Thomas. "Today, the shots weren't falling early for MacEwan and we tried to capitalize on those."
By the end of the first half, the Griffins had committed 11 turnovers and the Bobcats outscored them 16-9 off of them. Brandon eventually won that battle 24-17.
Combine that with Brandon making eight more free throws than MacEwan in the game, and you have the difference in the score line.
"If you can win the free-throw line battle and the turnovers off points battle, you're in a good position to win," said Thomas. "I think we just battled defensively and weathered the storms. It was a gutsy team effort."
After finding their defensive shape, MacEwan fought back to within three points midway through the third quarter before their momentum stalled via missed shots and undisciplined fouls that sent Brandon to the free-throw line three times before the end of the quarter. Suddenly, their deficit was back to double digits again.
It continued to go like that for the Griffins who wound up shooting just 16-for-69 in the contest, an ugly 23.2 per cent as shots just continued to clang off the iron or catch air.
It didn't help their cause that the officials were calling it tight, giving their whistles a workout with 35 total fouls – 22 of them on MacEwan.
"It's was hard to get any flow and rhythm in the game," said Adams. "That's the way the game's played sometimes, so that's out of your control and you have to battle through and find ways to prevail regardless."
There's no doubt, Brandon capitalized on the extra trips to the charity stripe, though and they were able to maintain their lead because of it.
"They're aggressive and they're a good defensive team overall because of how aggressive they play," said Thomas. "Sometimes the fouls get called, sometimes they don't. So, we were able to get into the penalty earlier and that got us to the free-throw line."
The Griffins will aim to learn from some undisciplined fouls for the rematch on Saturday (5 p.m. MT, Canada West TV).
"We'd get good shots and miss and then we didn't have the discipline to get back and just play quarter court," said Adams. "I thought we had some really good moments of D – the team that we know. But we just had too many missed opportunities tonight."