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Junior Skyhawks rattle the rim

Women's basketball team is 10-0 after winning its third junior tournament in a row

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am

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The junior team for the powerhouse St. Albert Skyhawks’ basketball program duplicated the varsity women’s success at the 32nd annual REB invitational tournament at Jasper Place High School.

In Saturday’s final the junior Skyhawks polished off the Chatham (Ont.) Kent Secondary Golden Hawks 77-58 for their third tournament triumph of the season.

The senior team also celebrated its second tournament title in a row with a tight 70-69 decision against the Raymond Comets in Saturday’s final.

“The thing with SACHS sport is heart and the desire to win and play and we showed that once again,” said Teresa Wallsten, head coach of the St. Albert Catholic High School High School junior squad.

Stage fright in the big game against Chatham quickly faded away.

“We were pretty nervous so the first five minutes of the game was a little bit rough but then we had a few players that kind of picked up their game and eventually we were up by 25 points at one point,” Wallsten said. “We let it roll and we shot incredibly well and played excellent defence. We went after the boards. That team has some amazing shooters and we were able to stop them.”

Abby Schneider, a Grade 11 guard, was honoured as the tournament MVP and Jada Unger, a Grade 10 wing, was named to the all-star team.

The Skyhawks tipped off the REB by crushing the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 91-31 and in the semifinals prevailed in a hard-fought 56-49 win over the Harry Ainlay Titans.

“All in all the team did an excellent job,” Wallsten said. “They’re an awesome, awesome group of girls. They work so hard and are very talented too but for as great as it is for us to win we need to push ourselves because we have a target on our back as the team to beat.

“We have to work on a few things but the great thing is the more basketball we play we realize what we have to work on.”

The semifinal against Ainlay was the team’s biggest test and it passed with flying colours.

“We played them in our tournament two weekends ago and we beat them in the final so the girls were a little bit nervous but very, very excited to play that team too,” Wallsten said “They challenged us. Their defence was incredibly tough and tenacious so we had to kind of change our game a little bit.”

Schneider flashed her MVP form with a strong finish in the win.

“She did an amazing job in the last three minutes of the game. She kind of led the team to push through,” Wallsten said.

The rematch at the REB was a tug-of-war between the metro favourites to duke it out in the March 8 metro Edmonton division one final.

“The game was tougher (at the REB) because Harry Ainlay wanted to beat us,” Wallsten said. “We were up by 20, 25 points in our final game against Harry Ainlay (in St. Albert). I didn’t expect that at all but the girls just played so well.

“Our first half, when we were at our tournament, it was an amazing. We couldn’t miss a shot.”

The Skyhawks were also the slam-dunk winners at the Scona tournament to start the season.

They will join the senior team at the 37th annual Tri-Prov at Ainlay in February and are looking to take their act on the road before the league playoffs start.

The Skyhawks were 10-0 in tournament and league play combined prior to Tuesday’s home game against the Salisbury Sabres. The score was unavailable at press time.

The team’s 10-player roster is highlighted by four returning players – Schneider, Robyn Kelly, Callen Predinchuk, the team’s tallest player at five-foot-11, and the versatile Carly Zimmer – from the 2013 metro junior championship lineup that won 13 out of 15 games.

It was also the second consecutive year the juniors duplicated the senior team’s premier championship season.

Both years the Skyhawks stunned the first-place Archbishop Jordan Scots in the junior final.

The 2012 championship was the first in school history for the female premier juniors.

“Last year we had size. Our posts could push around some of the other girls,” Wallsten said. “With this team our strength is quickness. We’re quite fast.

“To be honest some teams look at us during warmup and you can tell they’re going, ‘Oh my goodness, what kind of game is it going to be?’”


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