Skyhawks young and skilled
3A provincial and metro Edmonton premier basketball champions add seven new players to roster
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Dec 01, 2012 06:00 am
The St. Albert Skyhawks are reloading instead of rebuilding in high school women’s basketball.
The record-setting three-time 3A provincial gold medallists and 2012 metro Edmonton premier conference champions tip off the season with three returning Skyhawks and seven new players, including five Grade 10s.
“We still have the same type of expectations as before,” said John Dedrick, head coach of the only St. Albert women’s basketball team to win metro premier and provincial banners. “One of the things we’ve tried to drill home is we have a tradition of excellence to uphold. We still set the bar as high as we can for even the young players.”
Dedrick expects the Skyhawks will peak in time for the Edmonton zone elimination tournament in their quest for a seventh-straight zone title and ninth provincial berth in a row.
“We hope to be very good at the end of our season,” he said. “We know it’s going to take a little bit more time to get to that level. The intensity and the accountability will still be there but we still need to have some patience because it will be a growing process.”
Returning from last season’s 34-6 Skyhawks are two Grade 12s – forward Paige Knull and guard Amber Easthope – and Grade 11 forward Kayla Ivicak. The trio played prominent roles in the Skyhawks going undefeated in premier for the second time in three years and winning a historic third consecutive 3A provincial championship.
“There is always going to be some sort of pressure because of who we are but I feel that this group of girls is going to be able to work together and hopefully live up to the standard that we’ve set,” said Knull, a tough rebounder who played for the 2012 juvenile provincial team.
Making the jump from the junior team is guard Isabelle Durocher and forward Amy Mildenberger. The Grade 11 duo were key players in the Skyhawks winning the metro premier junior championship for the first time in school history.
Grade 10 Skyhawks cracking the roster are posts Jamie Cole and Riki Steward, forwards Marinya Marcichiw and Brielle Wise and guard Jessa Ivicak. Cole, Steward and Ivicak, the younger sister of Kayla – a U16 cadet provincial team player – starred for the SAPEC Tier 1 championship-winning Vincent J. Maloney Marauders. Cole, Jessa and Marcichiw, a standout with the Lorne Akins Gators, made the 2012 midget provincial team. Wise was a member of the Zone 5 gold-medal winning team at the Alberta Summer Games this year.
“This is the youngest team that I’ve ever had as a coach with this many Grade 10s. There will be more teaching this year obviously because of the youth,” said Dedrick, who is entering his ninth season at the Skyhawks’ bench boss after a stint with the varsity men’s team. “We’ll be counting on that youth for big minutes. We’re going to start one Grade 10 and then after that we’re basically coming off the bench with a couple of Grade 10s straight away.”
Knull, 17, is excited to hoop it up with the new Skyhawks.
“They’re hard workers and they’ve been showing that dedication to the team,” said the third-year Skyhawk. “I know the three returners are really looking forward to leading them and helping them develop into our program and Dedrick and (assistant coach Paige) Gaudreau are going to do a great job of helping to develop them. We’re going to be successful with that kind of work.”
Five Skyhawks are five-foot-10 or taller, compared to only one tall player from last season.
“We were kind of short and fast and this year we have height so we can develop more of an inside game as well as an outside game. Last year we didn’t really have that much of an inside game,” said the five-foot-eight Knull.
Her mandate is to lead by example.
“My main role is going to be a big supporter on the floor and helping other girls develop their game as well as myself,” said the 2012 junior provincial high school shot put gold medallist at 10.48 metres.
The Skyhawks will unveil their new line-up this weekend at the 25th annual SAIT Silver Belle in the eight-team diamond division.
“It will give us a chance to see our competition around the province. We can also start to develop ourselves as a team and start to learn our plays and run through them,” Knull said. “Hopefully we come out successful but even if we don’t come out on top, if we start to develop and work together as a team, then that will still be a win for us.”
The Skyhawks opted to make their debut in Calgary instead of returning to the Mike Dea Classic at the St. Francis Xavier Sports Centre. Last year they lost the final to the Dr. Martin LeBoldus Golden Suns of Regina.
“This is an away tournament so the girls get to be with themselves and get to know each other. This year we’re adding seven new people and the last couple of years we’ve been a very veteran team – we added only a couple of players every year,” Dedrick said. “My thinking was play people that don’t know us and be on the road and do a few traveling things together. It also kind of gets us out of the spotlight a little bit here. If you stay here everybody wants to know how you’re doing, who did you play and what you look like and I didn’t want any distractions like that. We’ll have some learning adjustments big-time but we’re going to be away for that.”
League play for the Skyhawks starts Wednesday against the O’Leary Spartans at 4:45 p.m. at the SkyDome.