Skyhawks fly into 4A
Provincial 3A women's basketball powerhouse shoots for 4A honours
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 06:00 am
The most prolific high school basketball program in St. Albert history enters a new era as 4A provincial contenders.
The St. Albert Skyhawks – winners of an unprecedented four-consecutive 3A provincial women’s championships and three premier conference crowns in four years in the metro Edmonton league – will hoop it up for the first time at the 4A level.
“We’ve thought about it the last couple of years and after having the success we had with the young team we had last year we felt like this was the right time to make the jump,” said Paige Gaudreau, who was promoted to head coach with longtime Skyhawks’ bench boss John Dedrick moving into an advisor’s role.
“I wouldn't say we’ve outgrown 3A, we’re just excited for a new challenge and a new journey with our St. Albert Catholic High School basketball program. Dedrick spent a lot time building this program to get to where it is and this is kind of the next step in our journey.”
Marinya Marcichiw, a six-foot Grade 11 post and third-year Team Alberta player, is confident the Skyhawks will continue their winning ways while playing a league and tournament schedule loaded with 4A teams.
“It will definitely be tough but it will be really good for us moving into 4A. We’re going to be prepared and we’re definitely strong enough to do it,” said Marcichiw, a major contributor to the team’s success last season. “Obviously we have to play as hard as we can to get as many wins as we can and improve as much as we can to try and do as well as we did last year or even better.”
The Skyhawks finished an amazing 39-1 overall as winners of five out of six tournaments. The only 3A team in premier also ran the table in league play, equally its achievement in 2010 and 2012 as undefeated metro champions against 4A competition.
“Last year was a good push for us going into 4A in knowing that we’re good enough to play against these guys,” said Marcichiw, 16.
Premier has now been rebranded as division one with the Edmonton public league joining metro this season.
“I’m really excited with the merge of the two leagues because we’ll get to play against more 4A teams in league play, which normally wouldn't have happened,” Gaudreau said.
When asked if the Skyhawks will be 4A underdogs, Gaudreau replied: “Maybe a little bit but I still think we’re pretty well respected by the basketball community in general so they will know we’ll be ready,” she said. “Many of the 4A teams that we didn't get to see last year would still see our scores and know that we were competing against the better teams in Alberta.”
Expectations are still the same for the only St. Albert high school women’s basketball program to win premier and provincial championships.
“We would love to defend our title in a different way in the div-one league obviously and then go to 4A provincials and compete against the best teams possible,” said Gaudreau.
The St. Albert High phys-ed and science teacher expects a smooth transition from associate coach the last four seasons to the head honcho. With Dedrick at the controls the Skyhawks won seven-straight Edmonton zone finals and competed in nine consecutive provincials. His overall record during the team’s four-year provincial reign was 139-24.
“The transition is a little bit easier because I’ve been around here and he will still be around as well – we’re just switching places,” said the former Augustana, University of Saskatchewan and Alberta Pandas guard. “We’ve always kind of joked that we’re yin and yang. We work very well together in terms of our style of coaching and we complement each other very well. I’ve been able to see how Dedrick runs a program and then at the same time I would like to do things and kind of mesh the two together.”
Gaudreau, 29, has recruited former Pandas teammate and O’Leary product, Kristin Jarock, to serve as an assistant for the 10-player lineup, including seven returnees and only two Grade 12s in Kayla Ivicak and Isabelle Durocher.
“Some people will see us as very experienced and others will still see us as young so I think we’ll do the bulk of our learning kind of middle season. Our Grade 10s have a ton of potential so I see them improving a ton quickly as well,” said Gaudreau, a Sherwood Park product who was an elite-level ringette player before focusing on post-secondary hoops.
The Skyhawks make their season debut Thursday at the 16th annual Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier High School. At 4 p.m. they play Hunting Hills of Red Deer or St. Joes of Saskatoon. The winner advances to Friday’s semifinal at 8 p.m. The final is 6 p.m. Sunday.
“We’re definitely excited to play people other than ourselves. We want to gauge how good we think we are. I think we’re going to be strong but it’s nice to see before the (metro) season actually starts (next week),” said Marcichiw, who played at the 2013 Canada Summer Games on the same Alberta team as Ivicak. “We definitely have some nice fresh talent and lots of returning players from last year.”