Farmer carries Griffins to 69-63 win over Heat in playoff opener

Mackenzie Farmer goes around UBCO's Alessia Brutto on Friday. She led the Griffins with 26 points in a 69-63 win (David Moll photo).
Mackenzie Farmer goes around UBCO's Alessia Brutto on Friday. She led the Griffins with 26 points in a 69-63 win (David Moll photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

CALGARY – Mackenzie Farmer put the Griffins on her back with one of the finest offensive playoff performances in program history as MacEwan knocked off UBC-Okanagan 69-63 in their opening game of the Canada West post-season tournament on Friday afternoon.

Farmer, who only had eight points at half-time, proceeded to shred the Heat over the final 20 minutes, finishing with 26 points to go along with eight rebounds, five steals, two assists and a block.

"If only I could have made those free throws at the end," said Farmer afterward when told she came close to Megan Wood's playoff program record 34 points in a post-season game against Victoria in 2016.

"At half-time, our coach talked to me and basically said I needed to be more aggressive," Farmer continued. "It was the example of Noelle (Kilbreath) – a couple of times as soon as she beat her man, it was an open layup. UBCO's a great team, but they (didn't have great) backside help.

"Most of my points were layups in the paint. I didn't hit a single three."

With the victory, the Griffins advance to play Trinity Western (15-3) on Saturday (3 p.m., University of Calgary's Jack Simpson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

Jaeli Ibbetson led the Heat with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Kelsey Falk finished with a double-double (12 points, 11 boards), but it wasn't enough to prevent the Heat from elimination.

Besides Farmer's big effort for the Griffins, Kilbreath had 17 points, while Shannon Majeau chipped in 10 points and five rebounds – including three offensive boards.

"As we've come to rely on throughout the season, obviously Mackenzie's effort was outstanding and we needed that performance to put us over the edge," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "But so many other people did little things that made a huge difference.

"Shannon had two big offensive rebounds – one at the end of the game that gave us possession back, which was huge – and another one she actually tipped to Mac, so she got a layup off of it. That was at such a critical point in the game, it gave us a cushion in the last couple of minutes."

Shannon Majeau goes around UBCO's Lucy Faba during Friday's contest (David Moll photo).

And Kilbreath essentially put the game away with a "kill shot," to quote the University of Calgary's Canada West TV broadcast crew, when she calmly drained a three-pointer with 48.5 seconds left to give MacEwan a seven-point advantage.

"She's found herself in that position a handful of times this year," said Adams. "As soon as she shot it we're like 'yep, that's going in.' So, the courage for her to step up and shoot that and obviously the skill she has to be able to make that at such a critical point … that turned things in our favour the remainder of the game."

Noelle Kilbreath breaks free on a fast break Friday. She finished with 17 points (David Moll photo).

That the Griffins even had a lead late in the game was credit to Farmer's huge offensive night, but also to one of the best collective defensive efforts the team has put forth all season. They shot themselves in the foot with several travelling calls, but made up for it with key steals, blocks and stops, effectively shutting down the Heat.

"Our defence was really what kept us in it," said Adams. "We knew from having played this team in the preseason that they are aggressive and assertive in their attack and crash glass hard. We had a big focus this week on just getting it done on the defensive end. I think the girls really responded well. We got key stops when we needed to, which is a really huge step forward for this group and our program."

Mady Chamberlin was a key part of MacEwan's strong collective defensive effort on Friday (David Moll photo).

There's no doubt, the travelling calls – dubbed "happy feet" by Calgary's CW TV crew – will need to be cleaned up as they face the much-higher ranked Spartans on Saturday.

"For this group, this is their first playoff game for any of them, so there's always some nerves and excited energy because of the moment that they're in," said Adams. "Now that we have a game under our belts as experience in playoff basketball I'm hoping that's something we can clean up a little bit."

Trinity Western earned a bye past the opening round of the playoffs and will present a tough challenge. The Griffins have never met the Spartans the Canada West post-season before and haven't played them since November 2019.

TWU owns a 4-0 record against the Griffins in regular season matches between them since MacEwan joined the conference in 2014.

"This is the fun part about this tournament is you get to see teams you haven't seen," said Adams. "We've done some prep work on them already, but it's back to hotel now to get our game plan sorted for tomorrow.

"They have Canada West all-star Nicole Fransson, who is a handful and she's someone we're really going to have to prepare for and an aggressive guard attack as well."

The winner of that game will advance to a Sunday match vs. either Manitoba, UBC or Lethbridge for the right to play in the Canada West Final Four March 18-20.