Griffins push Bobcats, but turnovers, defensive lapses hold them back in narrow 81-72 loss

Joel Seke finished with 10 points and six rebounds for the Griffins (Rebecca Chelmick photo).
Joel Seke finished with 10 points and six rebounds for the Griffins (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — The MacEwan Griffins showed once again they can compete and battle with the Brandon Bobcats, but they just couldn't execute well enough when it mattered most.

Brandon was red-hot from beyond the arc, and they capitalized on MacEwan's mistakes, scoring 26 points off turnovers as the Griffins fell 81-72 on Sunday afternoon at the David Atkinson Gym.

Milan Jaksic led the Griffins with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Matthew Osunde recorded seven points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the loss for the Griffins.

Sultan Haider Bhatti recorded his second-straight double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds as Brandon improved to 10-4, while MacEwan dropped to 0-12.

"We didn't execute defensively, and we gave up 11 threes (in the first half). They were wide open, we didn't execute, and the difference in the game was we didn't execute offensively and defensively when we needed to most,' said Griffins head coach Mike Connolly.

"There were times on offence when we'd try to execute a play, and we'd end up with a turnover and they'd score. That just happened too much, and really put us in a hole."

The Griffins trailed 13-12 midway through the opening quarter, and 26-21 after the first 10 minutes, but the Bobcats scored 18 of their 26 first quarter points from beyond the arc and started to really break it open midway through the second. Brandon led 52-42 at halftime after the Griffins went on a 7-2 run to end the second quarter capped off by two nice layups by Joel Seke and a three-pointer from Nash May.

"Defensively when we execute when we're supposed to, we do good things, but when we slept, we gave guys too many wide-open shots," said Connolly.

"We had some young guys that came in and contributed and they executed. The older guys tried to deviate, and the young guys stayed disciplined and did their job."

MacEwan knew if they could stop Brandon's hot shooting from three-point territory, they could chip away and give themselves a chance in the second half, and that's exactly what they did.

Brandon only hit one shot from long range, and the Griffins went on a 14-0 run the gap to 61-60 on the strength of two three-pointers from May.

MacEwan closed out the third quarter on a 17-4 run, and only trailed 63-60.

"They're a good team. They beat Winnipeg, they swept Calgary, they've beat some of the better teams, but right now we've got to be mentally tougher, we have to take responsibility and we have to execute when it's needed," said Connolly.

"I'm really happy for Dele (Osuma) and Nash. They did a lot of good things for us this weekend. They stepped up, but we need to have our older guys who are still learning to be more consistent.

"We're playing right with them. We have to learn and to grow and be tougher."

In the fourth quarter, a nice jumper from Thai Haak, who scored nine points and five rebounds, made it 65-62, but Brandon was able to go on a 7-2 run, and the Griffins weren't able to get any closer.

"We showed we were right there. We as a team know how close we are, and it's frustrating that the fruition of our work hasn't come through yet," said Haak.

"It comes down to competing hard in practice. Everything starts at practice, and we have to work on getting better prepared in those tight game situations and really get after it, and not lose focus."

MacEwan will be back on home court next weekend when they face the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).