Just seven players - including the team manager - see the court for short-handed Griffins in loss to Golden Bears

Jesse Trussler never came off the floor for the short-handed Griffins on Saturday, scoring 17 points in 40 minutes (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Jesse Trussler never came off the floor for the short-handed Griffins on Saturday, scoring 17 points in 40 minutes (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – You won't find a much thinner boxscore in the entire basketball world.

Devastated by injuries to more than half the roster, the MacEwan Griffins dressed just eight players and played only seven – including one who was their manager a week ago – against cross-town rival Alberta on Saturday night.

So, the score – a 92-56 loss – was academic, unsurprising and hardly reflective of the battle on both sides.

"I can't believe it," said MacEwan head coach Mike Connolly. "I've been coaching 30 years in post-secondary either as a full-time assistant or head coach and I've never seen this.

"Seriously, we were warming up six guys. We had like 8-10 gray sweaters. It is what it is, but we played hard. The guys were proud of each other. They battled, they didn't quit. I really thought it was a good character thing for the guys to show they just want to play and compete."

There was sportsmanship on both sides in the contest.

The Griffins met the Canada West minimum roster requirement by playing former team manager Bradley Roslinski ("He ends up with a rebound and an assist," said Connolly) so that the Golden Bears wouldn't have to postpone their Senior Night celebration.

And the Bears, ranked No. 2 in U SPORTS, clearly scaled it back, respectful of the huge minutes being logged by their opponents.

"I'll say this, the U of A was very respectful of our situation," said Connolly. "Not that they gave up or joked around, but they could have (throttled) us and they didn't.

"So, I think there was some good sportsmanship from both teams to get things going. We didn't want to cancel because it was their Senior's Night."

Jesse Trussler led the Griffins with 17 points, while never leaving the court, playing all 40 minutes. Matthew Osunde scored 15 in 31 minutes of action and Damilola Osuma had 11 points in 34. Both Taylor Cook and Milan Jaksic also played at least 30 minutes.

"Two things stood out in my mind," said Connolly. "Jesse Trussler stepped up and made some shots and played well. And I thought Taylor Cook showed leadership. He was really helping the guys play."

Alberta's boxscore looked a little more normal as 11 players saw action in the contest. Brandon Mieklejohn led the way with 14 points, while both Colton Gibb and Bryce Solis chipped in 12.

The Griffins are at home for their final four regular season games – against Mount Royal University Feb. 18-19 and vs. Lethbridge Feb. 24-25 in a pair of rescheduled contests from earlier this month.

Connolly hopes to get a couple of players back from injuries this week, but they will still be playing short-handed nevertheless. The battle they showed under tough adversity on Saturday can only help them in the future.

"To me, that was the hugest thing for our development," said Connolly. "It's easy for these young kids to get shell-shocked and shy and get panicky, but they just went out and worked and laid it on the line and that was awesome."