Skyhawks good as gold
Second undefeated premier championship in three years in metro Edmonton high school hoops
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012 06:00 am
The St. Albert Skyhawks are perfect in premier again.
The reigning 3A provincial gold medallists finished 12-0 in premier after racking up their 29th win in 35 games in Saturday’s 82-61 dismantlement of the Archbishop Jordan Scots in the metro Edmonton high school basketball final.
“We wanted it so bad. We didn’t want to leave here tonight without an undefeated season,” said co-captain Kendall Lydon after pouring in 31 points against the beleaguered Scots.
The Skyhawks dominated a league full of 4A level competition to capture the premier women’s crown. Two years ago the Skyhawks rattled off 14 wins without a loss in premier, en route to the first provincial women’s basketball championship by a St. Albert team of any size or school.
“It’s amazing the success we've had, but no matter what we do as a team we still have a target on our backs,” Lydon said.
The quest for a provincial three-peat continues this week for the Skyhawks in the seven-team Edmonton zone elimination tournament. Today at 4:45 p.m. the Skyhawks host the Louis St. Laurent Barons or the Leduc Tigers in the semifinals. A victory would give the Skyhawks home-court advantage in Thursday’s final at the SkyDome.
Two teams will represent the zone at the March 15 to 17 provincials at Camrose.
The Skyhawks are favoured to advance to their eighth straight provincials as zone champions for the sixth year in a row.
“We’ve been working hard all season to not only win premier, but zones as well and hopefully provincials again,” Lydon said.
In the final rankings before provincials, the Skyhawks slipped from their season-long perch on top of the leader board to No. 2 behind the McCoy Colts of Medicine Hat. Last month losses of 55-53 and 68-66 to McCoy in consecutive tournaments dropped the Skyhawks a notch in the rankings.
Last year the Skyhawks beat McCoy by 11 points for provincial honours.
“We’re really ready to play McCoy again. Hopefully we’ll see them in the final,” said Grade 12 post Haley England.
The Skyhawks used the premier final as a tune up for provincials. They dominated the Scots while rolling up leads of 23-16 at the end of the first quarter, 45-32 at halftime and 63-45 after three quarters at O’Leary High School.
“I don’t think this was our best game all year but it was definitely a good one,” England said. “The key was being smart, especially with their height compared to ours, as well as team defence. Your offence comes when you play good defence and that’s what we did.”
The Skyhawks kicked off the final with a bang, as Lydon nailed a three-pointer on the team’s first shot of the game. The Grade 12 offensive threat finished the first half with 17 points.
The Skyhawks started pulling away from the Scots after Kayla Ivicak tied it with two free throws and 20 seconds later England made it 18-16 from the line with 1:25 left in the opening period.
The second three-pointer by Zoe Downing in the first half triggered a nine-point run in the second quarter to put the Skyhawks ahead by 13.
In the third quarter the Skyhawks outscored the Scots 18-13, highlighted by Lydon’s three-pointer and Paige Knull’s two baskets and a free throw.
“We came out ready to play in the third quarter. It was team defence that brought us up from just kind of being even to really going to where we needed to be to win,” said England, 17.
The second-year Skyhawk was on the receiving end of a handful of thread-the-needle passes by Amber Easthope while posting 15 points.
The final marked the fourth time this season the Skyhawks defeated the Scots, ranked fifth in 4A. In league play the Skyhawks needed overtime to defeat the second-place Scots by 12 points in Sherwood Park.
“That gave us incentive to get our stuff together for this game. We needed to play confident and play how we can. We need teams to adjust to us and that’s what we tried to do the whole game,” said Lydon, a highly-touted recruit by the Alberta Pandas.
The lopsided margin of victory marked the second premier championship in three years for Lydon, Downing and Katie Burak.
“To do it again feels amazing,” said Lydon, 18, a transfer student from the Chehalis Bearcats in Washington State. “I’m loving it here. I moved to a great place with a great team with a great coach.”