Griffins flirt with first win, but rebounding, free throws hold them back in 84-70 loss to Pronghorns

Colton Halbersma had a career-best 18 points to pace the Griffins against Lethbridge on Thursday night (Eduardo Perez photo).
Colton Halbersma had a career-best 18 points to pace the Griffins against Lethbridge on Thursday night (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – There was an electricity in the air not yet seen this season for the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball team on Thursday night.

Although they lost their 15th-straight game of the season – an 84-70 setback to the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns – they were closer to a win than they've been in a long time.

Just two things, and two things alone, prevented them from that elusive first 'W' of the campaign.  

"Rebounds and missed free throws were the difference in the game. Period. End of story," said MacEwan head coach Mike Connolly.


The Griffins lost the offensive rebounding battle 24-7 and the overall glass war 57-36.

At the free throw line, MacEwan shot just 45.8 per cent. Had they simply matched Lethbridge's middling 65.5 per cent average at the charity stripe, it would have put them five points closer.

"Definitely, our rebounds and free throws killed us," said Colton Halbersma, who led the Griffins with 18 points. "We had our best game energy-wise and played full out as a team for the first time. That's why it was closer. Free throws definitely killed us."

With the result, the Pronghorns improve to 7-8, while MacEwan falls to 0-15 on the campaign. The teams will meet in the final regular season match for both clubs on Friday (2 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

Despite their record, there were many signs of life on the young Griffins squad Thursday, giving them plenty to build off of.

"Overall, I'm happy," said Connolly. "If we take care of the boards and free throws, we'll be in great shape.

"I thought our defence was pretty good," he added. "We made them take tough shots. I thought for the most part we pushed the ball and ran in transition and got some easier looks for us. That's what we've been trying to do all year. They got out and ran. It's a step in the right direction."

Rookie Milan Jaksic puts up a jumper against Lethbridge on Thursday. He had nine points for the Griffins (Eduardo Perez photo).

Halbersma took the most shots on the Griffins (15) and also knocked down the most (7). It was a career night for the second-year wing, who topped a 16-point outing he had at Calgary Jan. 29.

"Our transition was working well, running the ball," said the Sherwood Park product. "That's kind of where I found my shot. That's where I thrived, I think."

Rookie Damilola Osuma also hit double digits with 10 points, adding eight boards and three blocks.

Two Lethbridge big men had a field day for the visitors as 6-foot-6 forward Chad Oviatt produced a double-double with a game-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, while 6-foot-8 post Jeff Rodehutskors went off for 19 points and 11 boards (six of them on the offensive end). Guard De'Andre Pierre added 11 points.

To find success on Friday afternoon, the Griffins know what they need to fix.

"We do half of that (rebounding) well and it's a five-point game and we probably win it," said Connolly of the boards battle. "Now, they have to learn, that's not the other team, that's up to them individually to take it.

"It doesn't matter if you're 5-foot-10 or 6-foot-10, you've got to compete. If you play, box out and do things fundamentally correct, you'll be fine. That's a sign of youth, not keeping focused, losing guys, losing contact, and that was it.

"Again, that's growing and learning, that's experience and a whole bunch of things," he added. "That's accountability that we've been missing all year. That's good. We'll fix all that stuff."