Skyhawks win hoop showdown
Saturday's battle of the No. 1-ranked 3A and 4A teams in Alberta ended with an overtime victory by the Skyhawks against the Bishop O'Byrne Bobcats of Calgary
Wednesday, Feb 06, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Skyhawks delivered the knockout punch in Saturday’s heavyweight bout between the No 1-ranked 3A and 4A teams in provincial high school women’s basketball.
The 3A powerhouse staggered the Bishop O’Byrne Bobcats with a 13-1 point run with time running out in the Skyhawks Invitational Tournament final before polishing off the Calgary standouts with nine unanswered points to start the five-minute overtime frame.
The 86-82 thriller at the SkyDome was the 20th win in 20 games this season for the Skyhawks and the loss was the second in a tournament final and the third overall for the Bobcats.
“We really wanted to beat the No. 1 4A team and it’s great to do that,” said co-captain Kayla Ivicak, the Skyhawks’ player of the game with a team-high 21 points. “It will for sure let people know what we’re like. We’re here to win and we’ll play every game that same way.”
Two clutch free throws by co-captain Paige Knull with 22 seconds left in regulation time to even the score at 74 left the Bobcats reeling after blowing a 73-61 lead.
“I was terrified to miss, I’m not going to lie, but when I hit them I knew we would be going into overtime maybe and if we kept pushing we could come through with the result,” said Knull, the Skyhawks’ tournament all-star who spilled her guts out on the floor in the final.
In OT the teams exchanged misses before the Skyhawks grabbed the game by the throat with field goals by Knull, Amber Easthope, Ivicak and Brielle Wise, the last two buckets coming off offensive rebounds. The shell-shocked Bobcats were forced to call a timeout with 1:52 remaining and the Skyhawks in control at 82-74.
Down by nine after Wise’s free throw with 67 seconds to go, the Bobcats clawed their way back with three free throws before a field goal pulled them to within four of the leaders.
The last 28.3 seconds saw Easthope drain two free throws, the Bobcats replied with a three-pointer and Ivicak sealed the deal with a free throw with 11.7 on the clock.
“We just kept fighting and in the end we pulled through because we kept together as a team and worked hard throughout the whole thing. It shows how tough we are mentally as a team and how much we rely on one another and trust each other because throughout the game we didn’t get down on each other or start to think, ‘Oh we’re not going to win this game,’ ” said Knull, who fouled out with 54.4 seconds left in OT after tacking up 14 points.
Best of the best
The marquee matchup brought out the best in both teams.
“It was neck and neck the whole game. It was so intense. Everyone was in it the whole time and no one was willing to give up,” said Shenelle Tamminen, the Bobcats’ player of the game and tournament all-star.
The Bobcats were anxious to go toe-to-toe with the Skyhawks.
“St. Albert has been blowing teams out of their own division so we knew we were going to be in for a game,” said Tamminen, a prolific Grade 12 guard/forward who led all scorers with 29 points and six three-balls before fouling out with a few seconds left in OT. “We tend to rise to the occasion when we’re playing a great team like St. Albert. We were playing as hard as we can possibly play so we played awesome in that sense.”
The Bobcats lit up the Skyhawks for 12 three-pointers.
“We usually shoot well but I think we shot better today than we usually do,” said Tamminen.
She didn’t view the outcome as a loss.
“I don’t think it’s a huge disappointment for us, it’s just a good learning experience,” said one of nine Grade 12 Bobcats, compared to only two for the Skyhawks. “I don’t think we really felt like we lost at the end because it was a good game. We played well and they played well. If a couple of calls could’ve gone our way it would’ve been a different game and that’s just part of the game I guess.”
Bobcats head coach Michael Ryall described the loss as a character builder.
“Win or lose we knew we were going to be in tough, but I’ve got to admit with four minutes to go I looked up and we had an 11-point lead and I did relax a little bit and obviously a little too soon,” he said. “After the game we talked about how we would almost rather have this close loss. We haven’t been in enough close games where the girls get to see that full court pressure at the end of the game and learn how to respond to it, as opposed to if they had kept the 11-point win.”
The Bobcats led 20-17 after the first quarter on the strength of four three-balls and a lack of finish by the Skyhawks.
An 11-point run to start the second quarter gave the Skyhawks their first lead of the game. In the last minute before halftime, the Bobcats tied it at 31 with a three-ball, Wise answered with a three-pointer and with three seconds to go the Bobcats knotted the score with their sixth three-ball of the half.
Five three-balls by the Bobcats in the third quarter left the Skyhawks scrambling to play catch up. With three minutes left until quarter time, and the Bobcats in front 52-44, Easthope recorded her first points of the game on two free throws.
With 2.2 left in the quarter, Easthope was fouled driving to the hoop and Ryall was tagged with a technical for arguing the call. Easthope was 3-for-4 at the line to give the Grade 12 guard seven points in the quarter – all free throws - to tie it at 53.
With about two minutes to play in regulation time and the Bobcats ahead by 11, the Skyhawks called a timeout and head coach John Dedrick told his players to be mentally tough and play for possession. He also switched to a full-court defence and instructed the players to run a few specific sets that would give the Bobcats grief.
The invigorated Skyhawks attacked the Bobcats with a vengeance. Easthope’s three-pointer kept the momentum going and turnovers in the Bobcats’ end resulted in critical points as the Skyhawks worked furiously to close the gap.
“We kept hitting everything and that got everybody going,” said Ivicak, a Grade 11 forward who dropped in 14 points after halftime. “It was exciting, I’d say that. My adrenaline was pumping that whole game.”
Easthope’s 19 points down the stretch propelled the Skyhawks to one of the most important victories in team history. A steady Wise contributed 13 and Jessa Ivicak added 10.
“This win shows not only how much we wanted it but we also needed it for ourselves to feel satisfied. It gives us an unreal feeling,” said Knull, a Grade 12 workhorse at forward.
The Skyhawks are now four-four in tournaments after going 4-0 in the 16-team draw. Overall they are 21-0, including a 7-0 mark as the defending metro Edmonton premier champions after whipping the St. Francis Xavier Rams (5-3) by 86-35 Monday in league play to extend the team’s winning streak to 29 games. The last loss was by two points to the McCoy Colts of Medicine Hat on Feb. 25, 2012 in the final of the Wetaskiwin tournament.
Knull tossed in 18 points, Rikki Steward chipped in with 13 and Kayla Ivicak and Wise had 12 each against the Rams in Edmonton.
“We’re playing like a team should. We’re not playing individually, we're sharing the ball,” Ivicak said.
Tamminen said the Skyhawks are on par with the best 4A teams in the province.
“They would do well. If they worked as hard as they did today in every single game they would be a top ranked team, like top five definitely. They’re really strong.”