Griffins' rally falls short after nearly digging out of early deficit in 67-62 loss to Spartans

Mackenzie Farmer led the Griffins with a 21-point effort on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).
Mackenzie Farmer led the Griffins with a 21-point effort on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — The MacEwan Griffins dug themselves a hole just a little too deep against the Trinity Western Spartans.

After falling behind by 10 after the opening quarter, the Griffins scratched and clawed their way back to take the lead heading into the fourth quarter, but couldn't complete the comeback as they fell 67-62 on Saturday night at David Atkinson gymnasium.

Mackenzie Farmer led the Griffins with 21 points and seven rebounds in the loss, while Nicole Fransson led the Spartans with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jayden Gill was clutch in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of her 16 points to preserve the victory for Trinity Western.

The Spartans improve to 9-3, while MacEwan falls to 2-10 this season.

"It's always tough when you dig yourself a hole to start the game," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams.

"When you're constantly digging from behind, it's a tough place to be in, but I thought the girls responded really well. It was a tough, gritty performance and to make the plays that we did at the time they did to give ourselves a chance to win."

Hayley Lalor hit a driving layup with 2:30 to go in the third quarter to give the Griffins their first lead since the opening bucket of the game. She would hit a corner three-pointer to give MacEwan a 51-47 lead, but a buzzer beater layup from Shemaiah Abatayo cut the Griffins lead to 53-51 heading into the fourth.

The Griffins defence was stellar as they fought their way to close the gap against Trinity Western. They forced the Spartans into some bad turnovers and didn't allow many clean looks at the basket for a clean shot.

But their captain, Gill, came up big in the fourth quarter.

She hit a tough runner to tie the game at 53-53 early in the fourth quarter, and then followed it up with a driving layup off the glass.

She'd hit another tough layup to give Trinity Western a 59-58 lead, and hit another tough bucket near the rim to make it 66-58 with 2:58 remaining.

"Trinity Western hit some real tough shots. We didn't make it easy on them," said Adams.

"Gill hit a couple real big shots at the end that we defended real well. You can play great defence, but a better offence always wins."

Toni Gordon scored on a nice layup after driving hard to the rim to cut the Spartans lead to 66-60, and Farmer hit a long two-pointer to make it a four-point game, but the Griffins couldn't buy a bucket in the final 90 seconds as their final two possessions came up empty.

"This is a huge learning experience for us and something that we can grow from," said Adams. "We did have shots and opportunities, we just weren't able to hit that important shot or get a key rebound when we needed it."

One area that gave the Griffins all kinds of trouble and certainly played a factor in the loss was rebounding. Trinity Western out-rebounded the Griffins 51-24, and 19-4 on the offensive glass.

"Fransson is very talented and is a very good rebounder. Having to focus so much attention on her takes a lot of work," said Adams.

"They're a well-coached team and they crash the glass really hard and every time we didn't, they capitalized on it.

"They had 19 offensive rebounds, and it gave them 10 extra shots. When you give a team that many opportunities to score, it will hurt you."

The Griffins were sparked by the play of two rookie guards in Toki Tsuzuki and Gordon. The duo  provided a lot of energy in MacEwan's comeback attempt and made a difference at both ends of the floor.

Tsuzuki finished with four points and five rebounds, while Gordon recorded two points, two rebounds and a steal.

"They were big for us, and they earned that opportunity to be on the floor to close out the game," said Adams.

"That's an experience that they will definitely grow from, and it will pay off down the road."