Arron Lai, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE - After being voted fourth out of 16 teams in the Canada West men's basketball coaches poll, the Lethbridge Pronghorn men's basketball team proved exactly why they are to be considered in the upper-echelon of Canada West programs this season. Following up on their 92-54 victory Friday night, the Pronghorns showed resiliency, closing out a back-and-forth thriller with a 96-79 victory over the MacEwan Griffins.
The story of this game was momentum. Both teams saw momentum continually swing their way, but neither team was able to sustain it.
Throughout the game, the Pronghorns attempted to pull away from the Griffins, but a much improved shooting performance from the Griffins kept them steady with the Pronghorns. After shooting 21 of 81 in Friday's opener, the Griffins refined their stroke, shooting 28 of 73 in this contest.
While the Griffins were able to respond to all of the Pronghorns' offensive outbursts throughout the game, they were unable to find an answer to the Pronghorns late. After the Griffins closed the 'Horns lead to four points, 80-76, with five minutes to play, Zac Overwater, Eric Pierce, and Kyle Peterson took over for the home side. 10 points in three minutes saw the Pronghorns open up a thirteen point lead - and this time, they were able to halt MacEwan from building any momentum.
The Pronghorns were led by fifth-year senior Zac Overwater who posted a double-double (22 points, 11 rebounds), while Mike Pierzchala finished with 20 points.
After struggling offensively the night before, the Griffins had five players hit for double digits in points. Dustin Gatzki led the way with 15 points, while Liban Yousef (14 points), Jake Notice (13 points), Harrison Lane (13 points) and Deonte Doslov-Doctor (10 points) all had significant offensively contributions for the Griffins.
With this win, the Horns improve to 2-0 on the season, while the Griffins fall to 0-4.
"After jumping on them early, I was disappointed that we let them get back into the game," said Pronghorn head coach Mike Hansen. "We really responded in the second half and Mike Pierzchala's charge really fired the team up."
"We continue to do some really good things, now we just have to find our consistency."
As they did in Friday's matchup, the Griffins were able to keep pace with the Pronghorns for the first quarter. Both teams shot nine for 19 in the opening ten minutes, with the Griffins holding a 24-23 lead after the first. However, the highlight of the first quarter was an incredible alley-oop dunk from the opening tip. Australian transfer Zachary Coleman-Bock threw a slick half court pass to Fresno City College transfer Eric Pierce who skied up for the big finish.
The second quarter saw both teams shoot the ball at 50% (L 7 of 14, Griffins 8 of 16). The Horns were aggressive in the quarter, drawing ten free throws.
After a back-and-forth, evenly contested first half, the Horns began to execute their blistering style of basketball. They scored 14 points in the opening three minutes of the quarter to take a 58-44 lead, led by fourth-year Lethbridge native Mike Pierzchala. Pierzchala scored five points in that span, including a tough three, and a transition dunk off a steal.
As they did in the first half, the Griffins continually battled back, cutting the Horns' lead to single digits. Pierzchala was determined to make sure his team was coming out on top, as he finished the quarter with 15 points.
The fourth quarter saw fifth-year senior Zac Overwater attempt to takeover the game. Two quick baskets by Overwater helped provide the Pronghorns with some momentum as they regained a double digit lead minutes into the final frame. After the Griffins battled back once again, the Pronghorns were able to go on a lengthy run to close out the game.
The Pronghorns will hit the road next weekend as they travel west to the Okanagan Valley to take on the UBCO Heat. Friday tip off is set for 9pm MT time, with the Saturday rematch taking place at 8pm MT. The Griffins will head home to take on the Winnipeg Wesman in search of their first wins of the season.
Photo by: MPP Photography