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Skyhawks pumped for provincials

Three-peat contenders in 3A high school women's basketball

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 10, 2012 06:00 am

ZONING IN FOR PROVINCIALS - Paige Knull of the St. Albert Skyhawks controls the ball against the Edmonton Christian Lions in the 3A Edmonton zone final Thursday at the SkyDome. The Skyhawks are going to their eighth provincial tournament in a row after mauling the Lions 97-41. The two-time defending provincial champions are 31-6 this season as the second-ranked 3A team in Alberta.
ZONING IN FOR PROVINCIALS - Paige Knull of the St. Albert Skyhawks controls the ball against the Edmonton Christian Lions in the 3A Edmonton zone final Thursday at the SkyDome. The Skyhawks are going to their eighth provincial tournament in a row after mauling the Lions 97-41. The two-time defending provincial champions are 31-6 this season as the second-ranked 3A team in Alberta.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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The St. Albert Skyhawks continued their tradition of excellence in high school basketball in Thursday’s provincial qualifier.

The metro Edmonton premier women’s champions advanced to their eighth straight 3A provincial tournament – the sixth consecutive year as zone champions – after whipping the Edmonton Christian Lions 97-41 at the SkyDome.

“We’re all pretty excited to go to provincials again and this was a big step along the way to get there,” said co-captain Katie Burak. “Our goals at the beginning of the season were to win premier, zones and provincials. We’ve got two out of the three out the way now and hopefully we can finish it off with another championship at provincials.”

The provincial gold medallists the last two years will likely be seeded second behind the McCoy Colts of Medicine Hat in the 12-team draw next weekend in Camrose. McCoy is ranked No. 1 in 3A after beating the Skyhawks twice by two points in consecutive tournaments last month.

“We’re so motivated to play McCoy again and I really hope we meet them in the final,” Burak said. “It’s pretty tough competition between us and McCoy. They’re a great team and we respect them but when we’re playing at our best we’re the better team.”

Last year the Skyhawks repeated at provincials by defeating McCoy by 11 points in the final to finish 32-12 overall.

“We’re so passionate about winning provincials again and that’s what we’re concentrating on,” Burak said. “We know we can compete with any team when we show up to play.”

The Skyhawks are 31-6 going into provincials. The majority of the victories were against 4A teams in tournaments and league play.

“Our record shows that we can compete at any level and we’re not just a 3A school,” Burak said.

In the zone final the Skyhawks outscored the Lions 30-9 in the first quarter and at halftime led by 39. After three quarters it was 76-24.

Kendall Lydon sank 18 of her game-high 25 pointers in the first half. The Grade 12 all-star and Zoe Downing combined for seven three-pointers. Downing hit three of her four three-pointers in the second half.

Burak tacked up 20 points, Paige Knull had 14 and Haley England added 10 against Lions, ranked fourth in 3A and the second-highest Edmonton team listed in the provincial top 10 rankings.

“We pushed through and did what we had to do to win,” Burak said. “It was a really good team game for us, offensively and defensively. All of us worked as a team.”

The team’s senior night also marked the last home game for Burak, Lydon, Downing, England and Hayley Warmington in their Skyhawks careers.

“It’s a weird feeling. It’s really kind of surreal,” Burak said. “We’re all pretty emotional about it, but it’s definitely a good feeling to know that we’re going out with a solid win.”

Burak, Lydon and Downing are the only third-year Skyhawks on the roster.

“To have the opportunity to be on a team like this is just awesome. I’m just so lucky to be part of something this great,” said Burak, a rugged 17-year-old forward who battles for the ball like a rugby player.

FREE THROWS: The Skyhawks opened the Edmonton zone elimination tournament Wednesday by crushing the Louis St. Laurent Barons 102-40 at the SkyDome. At halftime it was 52-28. Amber Easthope recorded the 100th point on a free throw. Lydon was the top scorer with 20 points in limited playing time. England dropped in 18, Burak had 17 and rookie Kayla Ivicak added 14 against the Barons, 11-1 as metro league finalists in the city conference.


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