Kilbreath goes out in style, scoring 25 points in her final game as a Griffin

Noelle Kilbreath finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block in her final game as a Griffin (James Maclennan photo).
Noelle Kilbreath finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block in her final game as a Griffin (James Maclennan photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – After being celebrated in an emotional pre-game Senior Day ceremony on Saturday, Noelle Kilbreath proceeded to score the first 11 points for the MacEwan Griffins women's basketball team.

Her dream start didn't quite have a fairy-tale finish as the Griffins lost 69-56 to the visiting Victoria Vikes, but Kilbreath finished with an eye-popping stats line in her final contest as a Griffin: a match-high 25 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block in 37 minutes on the court.

It was a virtuoso performance that underlined her importance to the program since she first walked in as a rookie out of Calgary Christian high school in 2019.

"Your season comes to an end and there's always a really, really bittersweet part to that," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams, whose team finishes the 2023-24 season short of the playoffs with a 1-19 record. "But it's so great to see when your graduating players leave playing their best and having a game that really encapsulates what they've done for the program. I thought Noelle did that amazingly well today.

"I think it's a game that speaks to the career she's had here and the impact she's had on this program."

Kilbreath scored in multiple ways, going 4-for-10 on threes, 9-for-16 from the field and 3-for-4 from the line. Early in the contest, she moved past Shannon Majeau for fifth on the Griffins' career Canada West points list, and will finish her career with 693 in regular season play.

"I had a lot of fun tonight and I'm really glad," said Kilbreath. "A lot of other girls stepped up on the team tonight, which made my scoring a lot easier. It just felt like a very connected fun game. To play like that with my teammates at the end, I can't put it into words how much that means to me."

The Griffins also honoured graduating senior Hayley Lalor, who has served as an assistant coach this season after being unable to play since suffering an injury in January 2023. To Kilbreath, not having her in uniform beside her on Senior Day was the biggest letdown of the night.

"I'm just incredibly thankful for the chance I've gotten to play here," said Kilbreath. "Tonight was a mix of proud and sad, but also just missing Hayley. If Hayley hadn't met the end that she did with her knee, there's always 'what could have been?' 

"I hope she knows how much she's missed and how much she means to the team and the program. That was on my mind a lot tonight."

The Griffins could have had the icing on the cake, too; if their hot-shooting first half would have held up, they'd have beaten the Vikes. It was a monumental turnaround from a night earlier when MacEwan lost 75-33 to the same team. 

But on Saturday, they led the Vikes 36-33 at the half on the backs of an outrageous 50 per cent three-point shooting average. 

"It's one of the things sometimes with a young team and there's some hard lessons," said Adams of Friday. "Unfortunately, we had one of those nights last night where nothing seemed to be working, shots weren't falling. We had an inflated score line and it doesn't necessarily account for the effort. 

"Tonight, we had a heck of a battle from our girls. I thought they really responded well to that. We played probably one of our best games of the season."

A few open shots that fell for the Griffins in the first half didn't in the second, and that was essentially the difference in the game.

The Vikes improved to 8-10 and will finish the season Feb. 14-15 with a two-game makeup series at home vs. Thompson Rivers before getting ready for playoffs. Victoria had four players in double digits, led by a 12-point, 12-rebound double double from Mimi Sigue. Tegan MacKinnon paced their scoring attack with 15 points, while Tana Pankratz had 12 points and Abigail Becker chipped in 11.

Noelle Kilbreath gets a hug from head coach Katherine Adams after being subbed out and given a standing ovation from the crowd with 37 seconds left (James Maclennan photo).

Besides, Kilbreath's efforts, the Griffins got 13 points and five rebounds from Makenzie Reeve.

"We played together, we showed up tonight," said Kilbreath. "We know that Victoria's a very good team. They have a lot of girls who are quite tall and long. 

"We were more prepared for that tonight and able to keep them off the glass a bit more. It was a really fun game to play."

FREE THROWS … Samantha Hickey added one more block to her program record, finishing the season with 19 – the most by a Griffins rookie in a Canada West season, topping the 13 that Toni Gordon had in 2022-23 … Hickey also broke Gordon's rookie blocks/game record, finishing with an average of 0.9 … Sofia Makinen broke the program record for the best steals/game average by a Griffins rookie in a Canada West season with her 1.4 mark topping Kayla Ivicak's 1.3 from 2014-15) … Noelle Kilbreath finished the night with one more program record as her final free throw percentage for 2023-24 is 88.9% (56/63), which tops Kendall Lydon's mark of 88.8% (2016-17).

Graduating seniors Noelle Kilbreath, left, and Hayley Lalor flank head coach Katherine Adams (James Maclennan photo).