Skyhawks perfect in premier
Third undefeated metro Edmonton high school women's basketball championship in four years
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 06:00 am
O’Leary High School – The St. Albert Skyhawks are too good to be true as a 3A powerhouse after winning their third undefeated premier women's basketball championship in four years.
The Skyhawks are perfect in premier at 14-0 after their 33rd victory in 34 games in Saturday’s 64-37 conquest of the Archbishop Jordan Scots in a rematch of the 2012 metro Edmonton final.
“It shows our dedication, not only as players but as coaches too. They (John Dedrick and Paige Gaudreau) push us to the max every practice and every game and that’s how we end up getting to where we want to be,” stated Grade 12 co-captain Paige Knull during the post-game celebration.
The Skyhawks repeated with only three returnees – Knull, Grade 11 forward Kayla Ivicak and Grade 12 guard Amber Easthope – in the line-up.
“It was a great building year. We have five Grade 10s and we came out on top in the Edmonton league,” Knull said.
Last year the Skyhawks ran the table in premier with 12 wins, en route to a 34-6 overall record and a third-straight 3A provincial championship.
“Every year it’s a new adventure so I can’t say this is any more special than last year. It’s a different team and different players but it’s still awesome to win,” Knull said.
It wasn’t vintage Skyhawks basketball against the Scots (8-6), ranked seventh in 4A, however it was still strong enough to construct leads of 16-13 after the first quarter, 37-20 at halftime and 56-31 after three quarters in a game they never trailed.
“I don’t think it was our best but you can expect better,” stressed Isabelle Durocher, a Grade 11 guard. “Even if we didn’t have our best game we still did good.”
In the last minute of the first quarter, a blown call on a missed three-point shot by the Scots that counted left the Sherwood Park team trailing by one before Knull tossed in a pair of free throws before the period ended.
A 14-2 run to start the second quarter got the Skyhawks rolling before the Scots scored their second field goal of the period with 3:39 left until the break.
“It was close at the beginning. We started off kind of slow but then we started to break away once we got more into the swing of things,” Knull said. “The nerves came out and we were able to play our game and push the ball and looked for each other to pass it.”
Brielle Wise rose to the challenge in the second quarter with a three-pointer in the opening minute before closing out the half with a layup off a turnover for 11 points in the period and 15 before the break.
The Grade 10 forward led all scorers with 21 points, matching her game high in the semifinals, highlighted by three three-pointers in the 91-36 blowout of the Bev Facey Falcons.
The next play after Wise's three-ball, an intimidating block by Ivicak led to a Knull basket to put the Skyhawks up by nine.
Amy Mildenberger also stood out defensively to swat away potential field goals.
“The second quarter was our best quarter. We all rebounded and shot good,” said Durocher.
The pint-size five-foot-four Skyhawk filled in admirably for Easthope, who racked up her third foul 20 seconds into the second quarter, then her fourth before the three-minute mark in the third quarter before fouling out with 2:45 to play.
With 6:55 left in the half, Durocher lit a fire under the Skyhawks by coming out of nowhere to reel in a rebound out of a forest of defenders before dropping it through the hoop to make it 24-15.
The Skyhawks sealed the deal in third quarter with an 11-point run after the Scots opened the scoring in the second half.
Towards the end of the quarter the Skyhawks lost the services of Jessa Ivicak after a spectacular spill that left the unsung Grade 10 forward shook up.
Her older sister, Kayla finished with nine points after recording only a free throw in the first half.
Knull added eight points and Durocher and Marinya Marcichiw had six apiece.
Last year Durocher and Mildenberger were teammates on the first female premier junior championship basketball team in school history.
“It’s the same type of feeling as last year. We’re all a team at SACHS so one win means everybody wins,” said Durocher, 16.
On tap next for the Skyhawks is the Edmonton zone double elimination tournament to determine three provincial reps at the March 14 to 16 championship in Strathmore. The Skyhawks are seeded No. 1 in the eight-team draw.
“If we work hard as a team and we play our game we’ll do really well in zones,” Durocher said. “We’ve worked hard throughout the season and we’re ready to work even harder.”
Knull, 17, shot down a suggestion the Skyhawks are heavy favourites to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive provincial title.
“I know every team out there is working hard to beat us so we have to fight as hard as we can and hopefully we can do it again,” said the feisty Grade 12 forward, a candidate for the MVP honours in premier.