Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – As an attempt by Victoria's Justin Kinnear clanged off the rim and out with two seconds left, Keith Gerdes knew there was no way he was letting anyone else have that rebound.
"I saw Denz (Denzel James) was going to contest, so I knew the shot was probably going to be off – he had to adjust – and I saw it coming my way and went and got it. I wasn't going to let go for anything," he said.
The fifth-year forward was fouled on the play and sent to the line where his two free throws sealed a 67-63 victory for the Griffins, salvaging a split with the visiting Vikes.
Gerdes finished with 13 points and five rebounds, including his most important one of the night, and both teams are now 2-4 on the Canada West campaign.
MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz thought his squad stepped up a night after being outplayed in overtime to lose 89-79 to Victoria on Friday.
"We absolutely battled," he said. "When it came down the stretch and we needed a big stop, guys stepped up.
"In one of our final timeouts, Thadius (Galvez) said 'I'm stopping my guy, who's stopping theirs.' That was sort of a rallying point for us. The call was put on each individual to take care of their matchup.
"Guys stepped up and did that."
When Victoria's Grant Sitton threw a pass into the stands with 1:39 left, it gave the Griffins a golden opportunity. Both James and Galvez missed on the next possession, but a huge hustle by Harrison Lane saved the ball, setting up a one-handed lay-in scoop shot by James that gave the Griffins a 64-60 lead with 1:05 left.
"For us, five of our six games have come down to one possession games," said Magdanz. "Whether we're up or down at the end, it comes down to one possession. So any extra effort, whether it be saving a ball or getting us an extra possession in any of the quarters could be the difference between us winning and losing a game.
"When you see a guy put that extra effort in to get us an extra possession you know that it pays dividends at the end of the game."
With 24 seconds left, Hassan Abdullahi picked up an uncontested offensive rebound and had an easy lay-in to pull the Vikes within two.
After a few misses at the free-throw line by both teams, MacEwan led 65-63 with eight seconds left, setting up Victoria's final drive, which ended in another missed shot.
"I think our effort tonight was just OK," said Victoria head coach Craig Beaucamp. "I told the guys if you're to go play on the road and your effort is OK and your performance is OK, then you have to be willing to settle for games that end crazily in the last 30 seconds.
"Obviously there's a lot of funny things that happen in the last minute of games. That's basketball. There's 40 minutes before that that you have a lot more control of. There's always going to be missed shots, there's always going to be turnovers in the last minute. I just thought for us to get a second win on the road we were going to have to be a lot tougher and intense. We're struggling to get there sometimes on the second night."
Kinnear led the Vikes with a big night – 18 points and 13 rebounds – but they had limited contributions across the board other than those from their third-year forward.
"We just seemed to be real choppy tonight, although both teams were struggling to score," said Beaucamp. "We got into a bit of foul trouble early with Grant and that hurt our rotations a little bit.
"Early on we were really struggling to move the ball and I thought we got relegated to a lot of one-on-one play, guys trying to do things on their own. That never results in anything too positive."
Galvez led the Griffins in scoring with 19 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while James chipped in 10 in just 16 minutes of play after running into some foul trouble.
"I think these close games are testing us," said Magdanz. "Playoffs aren't easy and for us regular season's preparing us for that as much as preseason prepared us for regular season. I think these tests and these tough competitive battles each and every night is really prepping us for future success."
Next up for the Griffins is a doubleheader at Mount Royal on Nov. 24-25, while Victoria heads home to host UBC on Nov. 25-26.