Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The MacEwan City Centre Campus gym went wild when Thadius Galvez hit three free throws with 0.6 seconds left to tie the game 71-71 and send it into overtime on Friday night.
But the five-minute extra frame was like a collapsing balloon for the crowd and the Griffins as the Victoria Vikes drove the lane with authority and sped to an 89-79 triumph.
"It comes down to guys' willingness to engage and win one-on-one battles," said MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz after his team fell to 1-4 on the Canada West season. "They came out and their guys went at our guys and we expected someone else to bail us out.
"We didn't step up and take on the challenge. That led to them being able to score some easy buckets early and you always have to battle back."
Unfortunately, the Griffins couldn't buy a shot until it was too late in overtime. Their shots rattled off the rim and out, while Victoria could hardly miss, building a big lead by getting back to what they did best all game – driving the lane with authority.
"I thought we went back and did what we did in the first quarter and just played boring basketball," said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp, whose squad built a 23-10 lead in the first quarter with aggressive stabs into the key. "We put pressure on them inside, attacked them and got to the rim.
"I think in the second quarter we got away from that and shot a lot of jump shots and just didn't put pressure on them or give referees and opportunity to call fouls.
"I thought it was clear in the overtime that we got back and were determined."
It looked as if Victoria was going to win the game in regulation after Grant Sitton ran over Harrison Lane with 29 seconds left and went to the line to give the Vikes a 69-68 lead. Denzel James missed a three-pointer for MacEwan and Scott Kellum made two free throws for Victoria to give them a 71-68 lead with five seconds remaining.
But on a quick in-ball, Galvez elevated for a three and was fouled, sending him to the line where, under the most intense pressure a player can have, he hit all three to send the game to overtime.
"I think it's something you just practice in your mind in the gym," said Magdanz. "Thadius is one of those guys who wants to be in that situation. He got there tonight and he came through."
Galvez was also crucial for the Griffins in a second-quarter comeback, bucketing seven straight points at one point as they erased a deficit, outscoring Victoria 23-8 in the period, to go into the half up 33-31.
The Griffins built off the momentum to lead as much as seven at one point in the third quarter off the backs of newcomers Ali Raza and Adonis Monfort-Palomino. But Victoria hung around and fought back to tie the game at 50 on Taylor Montgomery-Stinson's three pointer.
Wayne Tucker Jr. keyed Victoria's offence in the fourth quarter as he scored 10 points in a row, finishing with 21 for the Vikes.
"I thought Wayne really attacked in transition and put pressure on the defence," said Beauchamp. "He drove the basket. Hat's off to him. He made a little error at the end of the game, but he came out in overtime and was very hard."
MacEwan countered in the fourth quarter with some big plays from Lane, Galvez and Keith Gerdes and seemed to have the momentum going into OT. Instead, Victoria took control.
"I was very proud of the team and how they bounced back from that because those are very emotional, really difficult situations when you give away an ending like that," said Beaucamp. "I was really proud how hard we played in the overtime. We went and took care of business and looked after each other."
Galvez had a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds for the Griffins, while James chipped in 16 with three blocks.
For Victoria, which moved to 2-3 with the win, Sitton matched Tucker's 21 points, while Justin Kinnear posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards, and Montgomery-Stinson chipped in 14 points.
Magdanz knows his team has some adjustments for the rematch on Saturday (7 p.m., City Centre Campus).
"We struggled to guard one on one tonight," he said. "Guys didn't accept the matchup and accept the responsibility to defend one on one. We were relying on help. And whenever you rely on help with a good team like this, they're going to find the open guy.
"I'm happy with our battle back and willingness to compete to the very end," he added. "We just have to do a better job of finishing some plays down the stretch."