Close call for Skyhawks
Strong defence compensates for offensive shortcomings by the No. 1-ranked undefeated 3A high school women's basketball team
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 06:00 am
O’Leary High School – Wednesday’s 22-point margin of victory felt like a loss for the undefeated St. Albert Skyhawks.
“We didn’t do our best so that’s a loss for us because we always want to play up to our high standards,” said co-captain Amber Easthope after the 58-36 result against the O’Leary Spartans in metro Edmonton premier women’s basketball.
The Skyhawks scored 21 points during a lacklustre first half to lead by two at the break. Field goals by Easthope and Jessa Ivicak in the last 31 seconds in the half put the 2002 premier champions on top for good.
It took the three-time reigning 3A provincial champions an agonizingly-long 3:48 minutes to register their first point – a field goal by co-captain Paige Knull – after Megan Tywoniuk’s three-pointer opened the scoring for O’Leary.
The Skyhawks (10-0) mustered only 11 points in the first quarter, two more than O’Leary (5-5), ranked 10th in 4A.
“They came out really strong and ready for it and we just weren’t there for the first half especially,” Easthope said. “It definitely wasn’t one of our best games.”
A 10-point run by the Skyhawks to start the second half sucked the wind out of O’Leary’s sails before Tywoniuk drained two free throws with 4:30 left in the quarter.
O’Leary was held to six points in the quarter and trailed by 14 entering the last period.
Tywoniuk, a Grade 11 forward, was O’Leary’s top scorer with 12 points and 11 points by Grade 12 forward Triawna St. Germaine included three three-pointers.
“We always play a good defence (32 points-against average in premier) and it showed in the score. They didn’t score very much either,” Easthope said.
Knull paced the Skyhawks with 15 points. The Grade 12 forward, a candidate for the premier conference’s MVP award, gave the team a big boost in the first quarter with seven points and spunky play at both ends of the floor.
Easthope, a pint-size Grade 12 guard, scored six of her 12 points in the second quarter.
Ivicak chipped in with eight points and her older sister Kayla had seven in the team’s 27th win in 27 games this season.
Next week the Skyhawks wrap up league play against the No. 7-ranked 4A Archbishop Jordan Scots (7-4) Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. and the unranked 4A Paul Kane Blues (4-6) Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. at the SkyDome.
The Skyhawks are guaranteed a first-round playoff bye and will host a Feb. 27 semifinal contest. The final is March 2 at 5 p.m. at O’Leary.
The Skyhawks are gunning for their third undefeated premier championship season in four years as the only 3A team in the conference.
“It would be a cool feeling if we could do it but that could change very easily obviously if we don’t play our best so we have to be ready for every game,” Easthope said. “Our last league games are next week so obviously we want to win those and then from there on there is no more room for losing. If we lose we’re out.”
The only St. Albert high school women’s basketball program to win premier and provincial championships is the team to beat this year.
“We definitely want to do it again and we obviously have the ability to do it again. We just need to get back to our regular high standards,” Easthope said.
Friday afternoon at the Spruce Grove tournament the Skyhawks and the No. 2-ranked 3A McCoy Colts of Medicine Hat squared-off for the first time this season. The score was unavailable at press time.
In the last two provincials finals the Skyhawks beat the Colts 74-63 in Chestermere in 2011 and 68-64 last year in Camrose.
McCoy lost a handful of players to graduation but the Skyhawks are still younger with seven newcomers, including five Grade 10s on their 10-player roster.
McCoy is also the last team to beat the Skyhawks – winners of 35 straight games – 68-66 on Feb 25, 2012 in the final of the Wetaskiwin tournament.
“We’re really excited to see how they are. It’s really going to be a good game,” said Easthope, 17, a third-year Skyhawk.
FREE THROWS: The Skyhawks are five-for-five in tournaments this season.
The Edmonton zone elimination tournament goes March 4 to 7 and provincials run March 14 to 16 in Strathmore. Last year the Skyhawks captured their sixth-consecutive zone title and eighth provincial berth in a row.