Griffins practising hard and moving forward as they hit the road for a series at Winnipeg

Matthew Osunde dribbles the ball up court agains the Lethbridge Pronghorns last Saturday. The Griffins visit Winnipeg this weekend (Gerard Murray photo).
Matthew Osunde dribbles the ball up court agains the Lethbridge Pronghorns last Saturday. The Griffins visit Winnipeg this weekend (Gerard Murray photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Keeping their chins up and looking forward is what the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball team intends to do as they continue to search for their first win of the 2023-24 season.

It's been a tough go for the squad, which suffered its 14th loss of the campaign last Saturday against Lethbridge, especially considering how close they've come in recent weeks. Most notably was Jan. 13 vs. Brandon when they led almost the entire game before falling 80-78 in overtime.

They also had a good chance to beat Lethbridge last Friday (falling 85-80).

"They're a little frustrated from their performance on the weekend," said Griffins head coach Mike Connolly. "I think they're really stressed about winning. 

"They've got to learn not to worry about it, just worry about the process. I think we took Monday and did some regrouping. We had a good practice today. 

"Like I said to them, 'you've got to keep moving forward, so either you ask for help, you give help, and you keep moving forward. As long as you're asking for help or giving help, we'll always be moving forward.' "

The Griffins' journey forward continues this weekend as they travel to Winnipeg to face the Wesmen on Friday (7 p.m. MT) and Saturday (4 p.m. MT, both Canada West TV).

While Winnipeg (9-5) is among the top teams in Canada (they recently dropped out of the top 10 this week), they are beatable. Earlier this month, Brandon beat the Wesmen by 25 points.

"They're a very good team," said Connolly. "They were ranked in the top 10 and they've been winning some games. They've lost, too. Brandon beat them and other teams have beaten them. So, it's not like we can't. We feel good about ourselves." 

There is some recent history for the Griffins to reference as they nearly topped the Wesmen last season (Nov. 26, 2022) when they entered the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead before giving up a 17-2 run in the final two-and-a-half minutes to lose 87-80.

"I think they're better than last year, but we still remember being up on them and blowing that lead, so we have a bit of confidence," said Connolly. "I do think they're playing better than last year, so it's going to be tough, but if we can go in there and play defence, and play together on offence, we'll be in there down the stretch. Then it's 'let the chips fall – make shots, miss shots. 

"We'll go in there, compete, bang heads and see what happens."

As has been the case all season, the Griffins will be without a couple top players due to injuries, but it will mean some key minutes for their younger players. 

"The young guys get a chance to step up and play," said Connolly. "They've been improving. Guys like Dele (Osuma) and Nash (May) have been improving. How about Joel Seke? He gets more minutes. He's playing really well. Now, it's time for one of our posts to step up – a young Daniel (Garner) or a young Mawien (Mondyhar). 

"Guys are practising and prepared, so we'll see what happens when we go. They're a little bit down, but this is what you've got to do. It's sport."

Co-captain Matthew Osunde was asked following last Saturday's loss to the Pronghorns if they're putting too much pressure on themselves for that elusive first win of the season.

"Yes and no," he replied. "We've really all bought in and want to turn this around, but pressure? That's life. (For) everyone doing everything in life, there's pressure on you to perform. It comes with the gig. It comes with any gig. We just have to be better."