Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – After building a 15-point lead and threatening to pull away from Regina on Friday night, the Griffins had to buckle their seatbelts for a wild ride in the fourth quarter.
MacEwan hung on for an 88-84 victory – their first win of the Canada West season.
"It feels good," said Griffins head coach Eric Magdanz, whose club moves to 1-2. "The start of the season's always tough. Guys are trying to figure out where they fit, where our team fits within in the conference and there's that added pressure.
"Coming home with a crowd that's behind you and being able to pull out the win means a lot to everybody."
Equally as important as the win is how they rebounded from a week ago when they lost a tight game, 90-88 in Lethbridge.
"Obviously losing a tight one last weekend, you always get some memories of the past. For us, I'm proud of the guys. When things got tough, they sucked it up and made the adjustments they need to do to pull it out."
MacEwan spread out its scoring attack, getting 21 points from Ryan Coleman, 17 from Keith Gerdes, 14 from Denzel James and 13 each from Thadius Galvez and Adonis Monfort-Palomino. James added six blocks, seven assists and seven rebounds, all team-bests.
They were at their best in the third quarter with an aggressive show of driving the lane.
"We were aggressive in our style of play and running our actions," said Magdanz. "The other thing that led to that was we played phenomenal defence in the third quarter. Our defence led to us being able to play at a quicker tempo and us being able to play in transition, which is good for us as a smaller, quicker team.
"Kudos to our guys in being able to recognize the scout and stay with it because they hit some threes early and it would have been easy to go away from what we'd planned, but they stuck with it to the end and I think it worked for us."
Regina had come to play early, specifically Alex Igual, whose three-point prowess had the Griffins off balance (he drained eight of 17 from behind the line) and led the Cougars to a 14-4 start. Igual had a game-high 23 points for the Cougars, while Aaron McGowan chipped in 13 with seven rebounds and six assists.
"We had to make an adjustment to Igual," noted Magdanz. "He was on fire tonight, so we made that adjustment and guys did a great job walking him down the remainder of the night."
Regina falls to 1-2 after the loss with the teams meeting again on Saturday night (7 p.m., City Centre Campus).
Cougars assistant coach Joel Hunter knows they have some adjustments to make.
"We shot the ball really well in the first quarter and then in the middle of the game there, we lost our focus defensively," said Hunter. "Down 15 points, it's tough to come back. We showed some fight. We worked hard in the fourth quarter, but we need to show that sense of urgency in the defensive end for four quarters."