Griffins earn first win of the season, beating Bobcats on Kilbreath's clutch three-pointer, great defence

Noelle Kilbreath puts up the game-winning three-pointer with 9.3 seconds left on Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).
Noelle Kilbreath puts up the game-winning three-pointer with 9.3 seconds left on Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — Throughout their struggles this season, one thing you can always count on with the MacEwan Griffins women's basketball team is their compete effort on defence.

And in the dying moments of Saturday night's game against the Brandon Bobcats, it came through big time in the clutch as MacEwan earned their first win of the season after a dramatic 68-63 result.

Noelle Kilbreath nailed a corner three-pointer with just 9.3 seconds to give the Griffins a 66-63 lead as the veteran shooting guard led the Griffins by matching a regular season career-high 26 points and eight rebounds in the victory.

Toni Gordon was all over the stats sheet with seven points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two blocks as the Griffins.

Reetta Tulkki led Brandon with a double-double (17 points and 10 rebounds) in the loss.

"We knew coming in that for us to win, we have to do it together. Especially at the end, the last 1:27, we really had to trust each other at both ends of the floor, and we had a lot of players step up," said Kilbreath.
"Just to have everybody making those extra efforts, it was exactly what we needed to get the win."

The Griffins looked to be on cruise control, leading 19-5 after the first quarter, as they held Brandon to just 2-for-15 shooting from the field.

But the Bobcats clawed back and were able to cut it to a 32-27 lead by MacEwan, thanks in large part to a 16-6 run to close out the half.

Brandon just wouldn't go away in the second half, and took their first lead of the game with 4:45 left after Piper Ingalis hit a mid-range jumper as part of her 11 points to give Brandon a 54-53 lead.

That's when MacEwan stepped up with some big plays at both ends of the court to stop Brandon's momentum.

Sarah Burnell's big block at the top of the key led to a Kilbreath bucket, and then Julie Dueck, who recorded five points and five rebounds, came up with a big block in the paint to take away a good scoring chance, with 2:54 remaining.

Then, Gordon hauled in one of her six offensive rebounds and cashed in a bucket to give the Griffins a 61-56 lead.

After a Katelynn Visser basket tied the game at 63-63, Mackenzie Reeve, grabbed the offensive rebound off a missed shot that led to Kilbreath's game-winning three-pointer.

"It's something we pride ourselves in, we always want to compete, regardless of the score. We had some lapses today that Brandon capitalized on. They have some dynamic scorers who hurt us at times, but when push comes to shove we got the stops when we needed it most," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams.

"Those blocks were real momentum shifters, and really gave us energy to finish the game. I loved the way we battled at both ends of the floor. We saw some real growth to where we've been and hopefully where we're going."

Head coach Katherine Adams talks to her team during a fourth-quarter timeout on Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).

The big defensive stops were a big key to the victory down the stretch, and that allowed them to get the ball in the hands of their most dynamic shooter.

It seemed like any time the Griffins needed a big bucket, they got it from Kilbreath.

In the closing moments in the fourth quarter, Kilbreath knew she needed to make it count if she got an opportunity to shoot.

"It was a beautiful pass from Julie (Dueck). Right in my shooting pocket, and I told myself, I'm not missing this. We get that look a lot in practice, either me finding her, or her finding me," said Kilbreath.

"We've been there before and a lot of close game situations and we were locked in on that play."

While the Griffins earned the big win, it came down to a lot of the big moments on the floor that propelled the team to victory.

MacEwan has taken some tough losses throughout this season, and had fallen short in some close battles, but to break the team's losing streak with a big team win can certainly give the Griffins a nice boost in this second half of the season.

"Brandon battled today. They weren't going to make it easy on us, and I commend them on how they came back after getting down. They really challenged us," said Adams.

"It's always that monkey-off-your-back feeling. We battled and competed and can be proud of a lot of our effort this season, where we feel short, but it's nice to finally be rewarded with a win."

MacEwan and Brandon will wrap up their weekend series on Sunday (2 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).