Skyhawks target premier title
Provincial 3A powerhouse gunning for third undefeated league championship in four years in today's metro Edmonton basketball final
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Skyhawks look unstoppable while steamrolling towards their third undefeated premier women's basketball championship in four years.
The No. 1-ranked 3A team in Alberta is 13-0 in the metro Edmonton league and 32-1 overall after embarrassing the Bev Facey Falcons 91-36 in Wednesday’s semifinal at the SkyDome.
The Skyhawks will defend their 2012 title today against the Archbishop Jordan Scots in a rematch of last year’s final. Tip-off is 5 p.m. at O’Leary High School. Admission is $5 and youths under 12 get in free.
“It’s pretty exciting, especially with a brand new team to make it this far,” said co-captain Kayla Ivicak, one of only three returning Skyhawks on the 10-player roster from last year’s historic third-straight 3A provincial championship.
The Scots, ranked seventh in 4A, are 8-5 in premier after finishing second to the Skyhawks in league play for the second year in a row.
Both games between the teams this season were blowouts by the Skyhawks: 70-22 in December and 74-37 a week before the playoffs.
“We just have to play our game against them; run and push the ball. We can beat them down the floor,” Ivicak said.
The Skyhawks averaged 75 points for and only 39 against in their last four wins in tournament, regular season and playoff action after losing for the first time this season, 78-63 in overtime to the No. 5-ranked 4A Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs of Calgary in the semifinals of the Spruce Grove Panthers tournament.
The loss also stopped 36-game winning streak that started a year ago in late February.
The Bulldogs went on to edge the Scots by one point in the tournament final.
“The loss was definitely a wakeup call. Everyone was mad. We were like, ‘How did we lose?” Ivicak said. “We played them before and beat them (71-31 in the diamond division at the SAIT Silver Belle in the season-opening tournament), but when we played them again we lost. We know now that we can lose against teams we’ve played so we need to come out and play our game every game.”
The Skyhawks definitely brought their A game in Wednesday’s rout. It was 10-0 before Facey (7-7) filled the hoop with a free throw with 3:31 gone in the first period.
Five Skyhawks combined for 29 points in the opening 10 minutes to lead by 23.
The carnage continued as the Skyhawks racked up insurmountable leads of 53-14 at halftime and 70-27 after three quarters.
It was 47-6 when Facey scored their first points in the second quarter, a field goal with 6:06 to go before the break.
In the fourth quarter it took Facey 5:06 minutes to register a point, a field goal to trail by 54.
Brielle Wise was the top gun with 21 points, including three of the Skyhawks’ five three-pointers. During a memorable 37-second stretch in the second quarter, the Grade 10 standout nailed her first three-ball, followed by a long jumper and then pumped in another three-ball to make it 41-6 with 8:24 remaining until halftime as Facey turned the ball over at an alarming rate against a jacked-up Skyhawks defence.
Ivicak and Amber Easthope finished with 19 points apiece and Paige Knull added 16.
“It was a pretty good game. If we play like this in the final, or even better, that would be fantastic. Our intensity was good, we kept our composure and hustled the whole game,” said Ivicak, 16, a relentless five-foot-eight Grade 11 wing and pound for pound the toughest player on the team.
Last season the Skyhawks finished 34-6 overall, including a 12-0 stint in premier.
“We’re getting to be the team that we were last year but I think last year’s team might have been a little better. We had a good record but it was because it was more difficult for us. Last year we were in harder tournaments than we were this year, just because we have a new team (five Grade 10s among the seven newcomers) so we were going to test ourselves in easier tournaments. Last year we had (a veteran team) so we put ourselves in more difficult tournaments to see how we would do,” said Ivicak, a member of last year’s U16 provincial team.
FREE THROWS: The Edmonton zone elimination tournament for 3A provincial berths starts Tuesday for the Skyhawks men’s and women’s teams at the SkyDome. Game times were unavailable at press time.
The Skyhawks are seeded first in the eight-team women’s draw and the men’s team will be seeded second or third in their eight-team bracket.
Provincials are March 14 to 16 in Strathmore for the girls and St. Peter the Apostle High School in Spruce Grove for the boys.
The Skyhawks men, ranked third in 3A, are 18-13 overall after they bowed out 80-68 in Monday’s premier quarter-final to the Sturgeon Spirits in Namao. Last year’s fifth-place finishers at provincials let a close game slip away in the second half while on the receiving end of four technicals.