Griffins within a basket of netting first win of 2023-24, but Bobcats escape with OT triumph

Matthew Osunde almost had a triple double, recording 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in MacEwan's heartbreaking 80-78 overtime loss to Brandon (Rebecca Chelmick photo).
Matthew Osunde almost had a triple double, recording 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in MacEwan's heartbreaking 80-78 overtime loss to Brandon (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — The MacEwan Griffins have had some tough losses over the last few years, but their latest setback may just be the most heartbreaking yet.

They held an 18-point lead after the first quarter and led for 39:06 of the 45 minutes played, but fell 80-78 in overtime to the Brandon Bobcats, Saturday night at the David Atkinson Gym.
"It stinks. It doesn't feel good at all. It's gut-wrenching," said Griffins point guard Matthew Osunde.

"But it was a great effort from our guys. We started off really dominant, and we kind of lost our groove there in the second quarter, but the third and fourth, with the exception of down the stretch, we did a lot of good. But our bad came at bad times. I'm proud of the guys."

Osunde was two assists shy of a triple-double after recording 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Joel Seke also recorded 21 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Sultan Haider Bhatti led Brandon with 32 points and 19 rebounds in the comeback victory as the Bobcats improved to 9-4, while MacEwan fell to 0-11.

MacEwan looked like they were going to earn their first win of the season with the way they came out in the opening quarter, and through the midway point of the second quarter.

They led 24-6 after 10 minutes of play, and continued to pour it on, leading 36-21 midway through the second quarter, but then the Bobcats were able to narrow the big gap, thanks to a 17-4 run to close out the half.

The Griffins continued to push the pace to start the third quarter and held a 59-51 lead, extending it to 65-59 midway through the fourth quarter, but after a Haider Bhatti layup cut MacEwan's lead to 67-63, Osunde was forced to leave the game with an injury in the last 1:30.

"My legs cramped up on me, and they locked up so bad, I couldn't even move my legs. I knew I'd be a detriment to the team if I was on the court (in the final minute). The young guys stepped up and played their hearts out," said Osunde.

With some inexperience on the floor due to Osunde's injury and with Milan Jaksic fouled out, the Griffins had to rely on some younger players to close it out, and while it was a strong effort, Brandon was able to force the game to OT.

In overtime, Osunde was able to get back into the game, but the Bobcats jumped out to a 75-71 lead. MacEwan fought back after Seke hit two free throws and Thai Haak nailed a mid-range jumper to tie it at 75-75.

Thai Haak had a chance to tie it late in overtime, but he had to contort his body while flying through the air to catch a pass and missed (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Brandon took an 80-75 lead after a turnover that led to a trey and a driving layup from Dominque Dennis.

Job Janda hit a circus shot, drew the foul, and converted the three-point play with under a minute to play to make it 80-78, and then the Griffins got the all-important stop with under 30 seconds left, but Haak missed a very tough layup in transition with MacEwan's last possession in the final seconds.

"Us older guys made some inexperienced decisions down the stretch there, but the young guys that came in did what they could to help us. I'm proud of them," said Osunde.

"We had the two-on-one in transition, we had Job (Janda) and Thai there. I had no doubts in my mind that it was going to go in, but that's basketball, though. It wasn't Job's fault, it wasn't Thai's fault, it wasn't anybody's individual fault. It was a collective bunch of mistakes that we made."

MacEwan will now look to bounce back from their loss to Brandon when the two teams will close out their weekend series on Sunday (12 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).

"We're going to watch the film, especially the last stretch there. We need to see what we could do better in those situations and learn from them and then go to sleep and be ready tomorrow, because they're a good team, and they're going to want to be a lot better than they showed tonight," said Osunde.