Griffins sneak past visiting Heat despite middling defensive effort

Griffins sneak past visiting Heat despite middling defensive effort

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics


EDMONTON – The result was exactly what the MacEwan University Griffins were looking for: a 74-62 win over the visiting UBC-Okanagan Heat that keeps their Canada West playoff hopes alive.


The process? Well, that's another story. And head coach Eric Magdanz wasn't overly pleased about it.


"We got the win we wanted," he acknowledged. "I don't think we did it the way we wanted to do it.


"We've done a great job together of playing together, playing as a team and being committed to the style of basketball we want to play and we didn't do that tonight," he elaborated. "We didn't come together defensively, we didn't keep our composure.


"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who you're playing in this league, if you don't do those things, it's going to be a tough night for you."


And UBC-Okanagan kept the heat on the Griffins for far longer than they would have liked as the game wasn't decided until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.


Three Denzel James to Ryan Coleman under-the-hoop plays helped salt away a win that moved the Griffins to 6-11 in the Canada West standings.


UBCO's head coach Pete Guarasci, who was once bench boss at MacEwan, noted he has a young squad that showed some fight, despite the defeat that drops their record to 2-15, tied for the worst mark in Canada West.


"I think we had a really difficult second quarter. They outscored us 26-12," he said, which was ultimately the difference in the game. "We had difficulty in the first half containing (Thadius) Galvez and we were lucky he got in foul trouble a little bit there. It was better to have him off the court.


"I thought in second half, my group played pretty composed on the offensive end. We got a lot of good shots. There were a few defensive breakdowns, but we have a young group and we're trying to just get better every day."


Third-year players Austin Penrose and Aldrich Berrios bucketed 16 points each for the Heat, while freshman Matt Lafontaine chipped in 11 off the bench.


James led MacEwan with 15 points and seven rebounds, but ran into foul trouble with his fourth infraction at the 4:59 mark of the fourth quarter. He wasn't the only one on the Griffins seeing managed minutes, though.

Galvez, who scored 12 points in 20 minutes of work, was the first to foul out with a charge at the 5:43 mark of the fourth quarter. Keith Gerdes, who produced 13 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes, joined him on the bench after his fifth with 57 seconds left. And in between, Ali Raza managed to record five fouls and no points in six minutes off the bench.


If there was a glass half-full argument to that, though, it's that the Griffins sealed the win by leaning heavily on their bench. Coleman was especially key in finishing with 14 points and eight boards in 18 tough minutes of work.


"We had some guys step up and play big minutes for us, so that was very good," said Magdanz.


"You know what, we've got to do a better job from our starting unit of staying committed to the style of basketball that we play, getting balance in the lane, so we can avoid some of those charge calls and to create some open shots for some other players."


They don't have long to learn from it before the teams get back in action again on Saturday (7 p.m., City Centre Campus), but Magdanz insists they'll try.


"Every game's a learning experience," he said. "We want to be better for tomorrow."


After all, it remains a must-win for the Griffins, who are still two points shy of the final playoff spot in the conference.