After a record-breaking season, MacEwan University’s women’s basketball team looked to exceed expectations even further in Saskatoon last weekend. After a clean sweep of the University of Victoria Vikes the previous weekend, the Griffins attempted to continue the winning streak against the Regina Cougars in the Canada West Final 8.
A win against the Cougars would have put MacEwan into the Canada West championship game, which, win or lose, would send the women to the biggest stage of their lives: the CIS Final 8.
The Griffins fought against the seasoned Regina team, which plays in a tougher division and has been in the CIS since 2001. Unfortunately, the Griffins could not continue the momentum built from the previous weekend, losing to the Cougars by six points, 65-59.
Heading into the match, the Griffins were undersized, which seemed to be their M.O. throughout the season. MacEwan’s bench was extremely short as well, leaving little room for error.
“When you go against teams that are deep in the bench and in talent, it’s always tough,” said Dave Oldham, head coach.
Fortunately, MacEwan was only outrebounded by five.
But that wasn’t the issue, and neither was the shooting; both teams’ field goal percentages were identical, with Regina outshooting them by just three per cent. In the end, it was MacEwan’s struggle to get to (and convert from) the charity stripe.
“At the end of the day, they just got to the free throw line more often, and we paid for it,” Oldham said. The Cougars hit 13 of their 20 free throws, good for 65 per cent; MacEwan was just 2 for 7 from the line, an abysmal 29 per cent.
With the loss, it propelled the Cougars to the Canada West Final, with the opportunity to compete in nationals. For MacEwan, it sent the team to the bronze medal game, and though the guaranteed trip to Fredericton was out of sight, the team still had a shot at the wild card in a match against the University of Alberta Pandas.
The Pandas lost by 10 in their opening game, and were looking to avenge a close loss with a victory against the Griffins, the only team standing in their way of a potential wild card berth.
Unfortunately, the Griffins struggled from beyond the arc and on the boards, which ultimately led to their 66-55 loss. The Pandas would eventually gain a wild card berth in nationals.
MacEwan would leave Saskatchewan 0-2, a disappointing pair of losses for a team with many key players moving on after this season.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the result, but there’s also pride,” said Oldham. “I am proud of how the girls executed the game plan and, most of all, how we held ourselves.”
Yes, despite the pair of close losses against teams who were heavy favourites, the Griffins have something to be proud of here. They had a great season, and these losses happened against two competitive games in an unknown gym.
While the season may be over for the Griffins, it held no shortage of accomplishments. Being such a fresh-faced team in a new and competitive league, the Griffins had no expectations of being a serious playoff contender. As some players move on, many more will move in, and Oldham and his team will continue to build on the basketball program.
Photo by Josh Schaefer, Huskie Athletics.