EDMONTON – Spotting the visiting Winnipeg Wesmen the first 10 minutes as they worked through some defensive miscommunication in trying to slow down an offence led by arguably the best player in the conference, the MacEwan Griffins fell behind early on Friday night.
While they improved coverage on Canada West leading scorer Kyanna Giles as the game went on, the Griffins women's basketball team chased all game and never could get the lead, falling 80-70.
"I think you can watch film and talk about how teams play and certain players play, but we certainly got a bit of a shock early just seeing it or living it," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams, whose squad trailed 23-7 early and were down 30-16 at the end of the first quarter. "The reality and brand of basketball Winnipeg plays – they have some really talented players who really do a lot for them and make things happen.
"It took us a quarter to figure that out at the defensive end. Offensively, we managed. It certainly put us in a hole we had to dig out of for the next 30 minutes."
But it didn't bury them as the Griffins closed within four in the second quarter, took a bit of a dip in the third and again closed within four late in the fourth quarter.
The difference in the end was a barrage of threes that Winnipeg rained down on the Griffins – two of them by Robyn Boulanger and another by Julia Schatkowsky, wide open after Giles cut in the lane and drew everyone – to decide a close game.
"You expect that from good teams and from some savvy, veteran players," said Adams. "They make plays in the moments when everything matters. Those were just daggers for us today.
"It's something, one we can learn from, how to prevent those from happening in the defensive end and also something we can look at it. Let's make sure we execute what it is what we've designed and talked about, so we're on the flip side of that, making big plays in the moments that matter most down the stretch."
Kianna Giles dances around Hayley Lalor for two of her 33 points on Friday night (Eduardo Perez photo).
Giles finished with a game-high 33 points, which will improve her conference-leading scoring average, and added 12 rebounds to complete a double-double for the Wesmen. Schatkowsky also had a double double with 10 points and 11 boards, while Boulanger added 16 points and Raizel Guinto, using her speed all over the court, bucketed 15.
"She's a very talented player and is certainly a tough matchup because she's dangerous in so many ways," said Adams of Giles. "She can score the ball, for sure, and when you take away those options for her, she can distribute it. We'll watch film and we'll see what we can come up with for tomorrow."
W��| Whoop, I'll take that.— MacEwan Griffins (@MacEwanGriffins) November 26, 2022
Noelle Kilbreath goes coast to coast after a steal as the Griffins keep pace with @Wesmenathletics, trailing 63-53 after three quarters.@CanadaWest #GriffNation pic.twitter.com/TlDkC3V0pa
MacEwan also had a star in the match as Noelle Kilbreath finished with 26 points – which cracks the program's all-time top-10 list in Canada West play – and narrowly missed a double double with nine rebounds. Mackenzie Farmer did hit a double double with 10 points and 10 boards, while Shannon Majeau chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds, and Hayley Lalor had 11 points.
"I think Noelle's continuing to showcase the type of player she is in this league and taking what teams are willing to give her," said Adams. "I think it helps as well that we have some other players that teams need to key in on, so it gives her some more breathing room. She certainly scored the ball exceptionally well today – her stat line of 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists are some impressive numbers."
The teams will meet again on Saturday (4 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).