Zachary Worden, Cougars Athletics
CALGARY – The MacEwan Griffins made their way to Kenyon Court Friday night, to kick-off a weekend series with the Mount Royal University Cougars. The Cougars came into the game at .500% and were looking to win their fifth game of the season to gain position in the CanadaWest playoff race. The Griffins made their way to Calgary in search of their first win of the season after a tough start.
The Cougars were able to hold off a late rally from the Griffins and come away with an 87-79 victory. LJ Hegwood led MRU's offensive efforts with 21 points. Patrick Vandervelden had a big second half and came away with a double-double. He scored 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and make his presence felt on the defensive end with five blocks and three steals. Glen Yang was also important to the Cougars' efforts on the night. He ended up with 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The Griffins were led by the efforts of Jake Notice who put in 20 points on the night. Atlas St. Paul-Butle's shooting was important to MacEwan's offense. He made three three-pointers on six attempts on the way to 14 points while adding five offensive rebounds and seven in total.
The Cougars defense stood out in the first quarter. They held the Griffins to 10 points on 25% shooting and used their defensive pressure to force six turnovers that helped them get out and run.
11 MRU players got into the game in the first half. They got contributions from up and down their roster as they built an early lead.
After the Griffins found some success coming into the second quarter and cut their deficit to five, the Cougars responded with an 11-4 run that helped them build a double-digit lead.
The Cougars' lead stood at 12 after the first 20 minutes, as they led from wire to wire. Nine Cougars scored in the first half. Matthew Guinto led the way with nine points, including two threes. Quinn Taylor also made a big impact by filling the stat sheet for MRU. He made four of his five shots for eight points, had three assists and three steals.
The Griffins first half offence was led by Notice, St. Paul Butle and Liban Yousef who combined for 20 of their 28 points. Notice and Yousef got their points by attacking the rim, while St. Paul-Butle hit two threes to get his points.
MRU came out of the halftime break and kept their foot on the gas. They started on a 13-1 run, helping them grow their lead to more than 20, taking control of the game.
The Griffins responded by going to a press and trying to force the Cougars into some turnovers. Their defence helped them slow down the MRU offence and start cutting into the lead.
Hegwood scored 10 points in the quarter, getting to the rim at ease and finishing strong through the contact down low.
When the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter, MacEwan had cut their deficit to 13, giving themselves a chance to comeback in the final 10 minutes.
The Griffins started the fourth on a 7-2 run, cutting the Cougars' lead to single-digits with seven minutes remaining.
The two teams spent the rest of the trading baskets, the Griffins couldn't cut the Cougars' lead below six as each of their scores was answered by an MRU bucket on the other end.
Despite a final minute push from the Griffins, MRU was able to hold on for their fifth win of the season. The Cougars' defense of their lead down the stretch was highlighted by a huge slam in transition by Hegwood.
Game two of the series will tip-off tomorrow at 6 p.m. MDT at Kenyon Court. The game can be streamed live on www.canadawest.tv