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Skyhawks lose big game

Second-place finish in premier women's hoops

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 06:00 am

Hayley Warmington of the St. Albert Skyhawks drives around Adut Bulgak of the O'Leary Spartans during Wednesday's first-place showdown in metro Edmonton premier women's basketball. Led by Adut's 40 points, the Spartans rallied to defeat the Skyhawks 75-69 in Edmonton. Playoffs start Monday for both teams. Last year the Skyhawks beat the Spartans in the final.
Hayley Warmington of the St. Albert Skyhawks drives around Adut Bulgak of the O'Leary Spartans during Wednesday's first-place showdown in metro Edmonton premier women's basketball. Led by Adut's 40 points, the Spartans rallied to defeat the Skyhawks 75-69 in Edmonton. Playoffs start Monday for both teams. Last year the Skyhawks beat the Spartans in the final.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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O’Leary High School – First place slipped away from the St. Albert Skyhawks in Wednesday’s showdown with the O’Leary Spartans in high school hoops.

The defending 3A provincial gold medallists and metro Edmonton premier women’s champions relinquished the lead with 1:53 to play in the 75-69 loss.

“We were so close. We were ahead practically the whole game,” said co-captain Kendall Lydon, the top-scoring Skyhawk with six three-balls and 32 points. “Everybody came to play today. Our full court defence was pretty good. We were up in their faces. For the most part we chased down every loose ball we could. We really hustled.”

After opening the match with seven straight points, the Skyhawks built up leads of 17-13 after the first quarter, 35-25 at halftime and 54-49 after three quarters before the roof caved in.

“We knew what we had to do against them and we did it right up until the end,” Lydon said. “We panicked a little bit at the end. We should’ve taken our time and done what we needed to do to win it.”

After a slick baseline move by Lydon to make it 64-57, the Spartans cranked it up against the foul-plagued Skyhawks. The pivotal play in the comeback charge was a basket by Adut Bulgak to give the Spartans their first lead of the game at 69-68 with 1:53 to go. The powerhouse Grade 12 post was also fouled on the play and sank the free throw.

Bulgak finished the game with a whopping 40 points, including 13 in the last quarter. Roughly half her point totals came from the free throw line as the undersized Skyhawks kept hacking away at the premier league’s MVP.

It was defence by committee as the Skyhawks rotated a variety of players in the middle in hopes of slowing down Bulgak.

“We didn’t stop Adut like we needed to,” Lydon said. “She makes a huge difference for their team. She gets rebounds. She puts shots up. She is a great player. She is hard to stop.”

In the first half the Skyhawks were whistled for 16 fouls, compared to three for the Spartans. Katie Burak and Paige Knull, a pair of physical forwards, eventually fouled out. Several others were deep in foul trouble.

The entertaining affair was a classic tug-of-war between the Skyhawks’ lethal outside shooting and the Spartans’ dominating inside game. The top-ranked 3A team in Alberta buried 14 three-balls from everywhere downtown. Zoe Downing’s 15 points consisted of five three-balls. Shelby Hucul added nine points with a trio of three-balls, highlighted by a long bomb as the shot clock ended to extend the lead to 62-55 with 6:41 left.

Hayley Warmington also chipped in offensively with key points for the highest-scoring team in premier with a 77 points-per-game average.

“We all shot the ball well today,” Lydon said. “Each person is a scoring presence. We’re confident that we can pass the ball out to anybody and they will do the job for us.”

Lydon, 17, racked up four three-balls and 20 points during another impressive shooting display by the Grade 11 guard.

“Everything just seemed to fall for me today,” she said.

Going into the playoffs, the Spartans finished 13-1 and the Skyhawks are 12-2.

“We all wanted to finish first so it’s disappointing,” Lydon said. “It’s always disappointing, too, when you lose to O’Leary.”

Previous losses to the third-ranked 4A team were 52-41 in the final of the Mike Dea Classic in December and 72-65 in January at the SkyDome.

“O’Leary is an awesome team and every time we play them it’s always competitive,” Lydon said. “We know that they’re the team that we need to beat this year and we can’t wait until we play them again.”

Last year the Skyhawks finished undefeated in premier — a rare feat for a 3A team — after knocking off the Spartans 74-72 in the final on a pair of clutch Lydon free throws with 0.1 on the clock.

“We just want to make it to the final. It will be a great game if we both end up making it,” Lydon said of next Saturday’s championship tilt at 5 p.m. at O’Leary.

In quarter-final action Monday, the Skyhawks host the seventh-place St. Francis Xavier Rams (4-10) at 4:45 p.m. The winner will tangle with the Paul Kane Blues (10-4) or Bev Facey Falcons (4-10) in Wednesday’s semifinal.

In a shocker, the Blues upset the Spartans 59-54 Tuesday at Paul Kane, setting the stage for the first-place grudge match between the Skyhawks and O’Leary.

This weekend the Skyhawks are in Wetaskiwin for a 3A-calibre tournament. Last weekend in Spruce Grove, the Skyhawks beat Bev Facey and lost by 28 points to Western Canada of Calgary, ranked first in 4A, and by eight to the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs of Calgary, ranked second in 4A. The Skyhawks led the Bulldogs for three quarters until foul trouble and a depleted bench took a toll on the team.

The Skyhawks’ overall record is 23-10.


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