Griffins run into rebounding machine, tough defence in loss to cross-town rival Pandas

Kristen Monfort-Palomino looks for an opening against Alberta's Elle Hendershot, left, on Thursday night (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Kristen Monfort-Palomino looks for an opening against Alberta's Elle Hendershot, left, on Thursday night (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The MacEwan Griffins tried a number of different strategies on Elle Hendershot on Thursday night.

Double teams, box outs and even attempting to get her to foul out.

None of them worked particularly well as the star fifth-year Alberta post grabbed more than half of her team's rebounds (16 of 31) and added 10 points for her seventh double-double of the season, leading the Pandas to a 57-40 win over their cross-town rivals in Canada West women's basketball action.

"She's just a workhorse on the glass," said Alberta head coach Scott Edwards. "She just loves rebounding.

"We'll miss her next year, but it's been fun watching her go after it. She's going to end up being one of the best all-time rebounders at our school. I enjoy watching her as many times as I can."

Hendershot now has 58 rebounds in Alberta's past three games as they improve their playoff positioning by moving to 9-8 in the standings, while MacEwan falls to 4-13.

"She's tough. She's very skilled at what she does," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams. "You throw your best at her and try to send two and double her and she still finds opportunities."

MacEwan gained a brief reprieve early in the fourth quarter when Hendershot, in foul trouble with four offences, took a chair for four-and-a-half minutes.

Unfortunately, that didn't help them either as the Pandas used some successful outside shooting and solid defence to extend a 10-point advantage to 16 by the time Hendershot re-entered with 3:50 remaining.

The Griffins put forward a solid defensive effort, as well, highlighted by Shannon Majeau's block of Hendershot late in the contest and nine total steals between five different players.

"It's tough. When you give up 57 points, you think you should give yourselves a chance to be competitive in it at least," said Adams. "We just had a tough time, particularly the second quarter, finding good shots. Then we did find good shots and they just didn't fall. That's the way the game goes sometimes.

"They, on the other hand, took advantage of some defensive lapses. They got some rebounds at times. We'd play great D, they'd throw up the shot, get the rebound and put it back. That's just a killer."

Both teams are carbon copies of one another in the way they defend with ferocious, swarming steal-hungry guards, but the Pandas had another gear in that regard in the second quarter. They forced MacEwan into a few too many 24-second violations and held them to just three points, opening up a 12-point half-time advantage that they'd never really relinquish.

"I thought we got to another level defensively today that I haven't really seen of us lately, so that's really nice to see," said Edwards. "If we're going to be a playoff team, that's the kind of defence you've got to play to get there.

"I think MacEwan does a tough job. We only scored 57 points tonight, so it's not like we're two slouches. They did a great job defensively."

Neither team will be overly proud of their field-goal percentage – 35.7 per cent for Alberta and 26.3 for MacEwan.

"I think both teams really struggled to score," said Edwards. "Both teams struggled to hit the shots that they got. Both were working hard for it, but they're not falling for these kids right now. Both teams need to kind of rely on their defence to stay in games and I think that's what we saw today."

Alberta also got 14 points from Emma Kary, who went 4-for-6 from behind the arc, and 13 from Jenna Harpe off the bench.

MacEwan was led by point guard Kristen Monfort-Palomino, who had 12 points, six rebounds, an assist and two steals in 26 minutes. Rookie Mackenzie Farmer added 10 points.

"She stepped up, hit a few shots and found some ways to contribute on the scoreboard," said Adams of Monfort-Palomino, who, at one point, scored five points in a row. "It was really nice to see when you get some scoring from the point guard position, especially on a night when our top scorers struggled to find open opportunities."

And that was it – the telltale trouble for the Griffins: leading scorer Kayla Ivicak – who actually has more double doubles than Hendershot this season with eight – was held to just six points and six boards, and second-leading scorer Paige Knull had no points to show for a 27-minute night.

The cross-town rivals will meet again in the rematch on Saturday (5 p.m., Saville Centre).