Tough fourth quarter for Griffins turns potential win into 75-71 defeat vs. Cougars

Hannah Gibb puts up a three-point attempt under pressure from MRU's Abbey Wilkinson on Friday night (Eduardo Perez photo).
Hannah Gibb puts up a three-point attempt under pressure from MRU's Abbey Wilkinson on Friday night (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Bring on the woulda-couldas, the shoulda-wouldas and even the coulda-shouldas.

The MacEwan Griffins women's basketball team will have plenty of those to chew on after a 12-point lead evaporated in the fourth quarter and turned into a 75-71 loss to the visiting Mount Royal University Cougars on Friday night.

In an attempt to rally in the final 10 minutes, the visitors employed a full-court press that frustrated the Griffins, forcing them into nine fourth-quarter turnovers.

"Their pressure put us on our heels," said head coach Katherine Adams, whose team committed 29 turnovers in the game. "We just weren't as assertive as we needed to be, moving the ball and taking advantage of the opportunities that that pressure gives us. Then they capitalized on it.

"We had one turnover in the third quarter, which was really good. That's what got us the lead and in the fourth quarter we reverted back (to the first half). We let their pressure get to us and that's what happens."

There were missed free throws that could have made a difference, though, as well as open shots that didn't fall. It all adds up to a disappointing result for the Griffins, who, with a win would have tied MRU in the standings.

Instead, they will finish fifth in the Canada West's Central Division, falling to 3-12, while the Cougars improve to 5-10. Both teams will finish the regular season on Saturday in a rematch (5 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

On the positive side, though, every team makes the post-season under a regional schedule format brought on by the pandemic, so the Griffins will be able to file that fourth quarter away and learn from it in time for the opening round of the conference tournament on March 4 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.

"It has to be a teaching moment," said Adams. "This is our growth. We have to take every opportunity we can to learn from it and get better, so tomorrow we're better, next week we're better and we head into playoffs we're performing our best."

Jenika Martens led the Cougars with 14 points and six rebounds, while Jamie Lalor had a big multi-cat game with 10 points, five boards, seven assists and five steals. Rachel Osczevski chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds.

MacEwan had four players in double digits for points, led by Noelle Kilbreath's game-high 19, Hayley Lalor's 15 to go with seven rebounds, and Shannon Majeau's near double-double (13 points and nine boards).

"I thought Shannon did a really great job; just her presence inside and her presence on the glass made a difference tonight," said Adams. "It was really nice to see from her.

"Everybody had glimpses of really good things and everybody had moments they wish they could take back."

That was the same for both sides in a game with some wild swings of momentum. The Cougars built up a 13-point lead at one point in the second quarter as their strong defence forced the Griffins into many missed shots.

But the third quarter completely belonged to MacEwan, who outscored MRU 27-12 in the frame and left it with a 12-point advantage.

Unfortunately, they couldn't solve the press and it ultimately forced them into costly mistakes.

"I think it's recognizing moments," said Adams. "The game is going to ebb and flow, that's natural. But recognizing the moments – 'OK, we haven't gotten a score in a while, so what do they want us to do right now?

"It's being a little bit better at the decisions we're making and putting ourselves in a better position to stop that run and get momentum back."