Varsity women's basketball team wins second tournament in two weeks then loses to Spruce Grove in league play
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Skyhawks equaled last season’s loss total in high school hoops against the team that will challenge them for league and 4A provincial honours.
The Spruce Grove Panthers withstood a spirited comeback charge to knock off the undefeated Skyhawks 59-53 in Monday’s metro Edmonton division one contest at the SkyDome.
“We just started off flat,” said Brielle Wise of the Skyhawks after scoring 13 points. “If we wouldn’t have dug ourselves a hole so early in the game I think we would’ve been able to keep it a pretty close game the entire time. It was that little dip in the first half that got us.”
The sluggish Skyhawks scrambled to catch up after falling behind 14-9 at the end of the first quarter and 29-19 at halftime.
“We didn’t really set up our offence and execute very well and then in the second half we started to push the ball in transition, which is a game we like to play. We got some easy points and then we got some intensity, executed our offences and then our defence came along,” Wise said. “But in the end it just came down to those simple mistakes in the first half that we made.”
The Panthers were gung-ho to see what the Skyhawks had to offer.
“We were so pumped to play them. We knew it was going to be a close battle,” said co-captain Sydney Kumar, who drained a team-high 18 points as a Grade 12 guard.
There are also strong connections between the teams through Panthawk Basketball, a joint Panther Athletic Club and Skyhawks Basketball initative.
“We were excited to play them because we train with Panthawk together,” Kumar said. “We’re kind of friends with them too but on the court we’re no longer friends so it was going to be a good game.”
Early in the third quarter the Skyhawks roared back with a six-point run to trail by four.
The Panthers replied with nine straight before Jamie Coles got the Skyhawks' back on track.
Down by 13 the Skyhawks closed out the quarter with 12 consecutive points to pull with three at 44-41.
Jamie Bain’s three-pointer and free throw with 18.1 seconds to go in the quarter and Riki Steward’s bank shot from Wise’s pass to beat the buzzer helped close the gap.
“When we got the lead we thought we were doing good but against a good team like this we knew they weren’t going to go away,” Kumar said.
The first lead of the game for the Skyhawks was Wise’s basket from the paint with 4:04 to go make it 50-49.
After the Skyhawks regained the lead at 53-52 on Jessa Ivicak’s field goal with 1:22 remaining, Kumar uncorked a three with 63 seconds to play.
“It kind of upped our energy a little bit,” Kumar said.
As the clock wound down, misses by both teams and a series of timeouts led to an inbound play by the Skyhawks and Kumar converted the turnover into a backbreaking basket at 57-53 with 34.4 left.
“I thought it could have been a foul because it was kind of a 50/50 play,” Kumar said. “I went and got it and I’m sure they probably would’ve scored so it was kind of a risky thing.”
Marinya Marcichiw led the Skyhawks in points with 16 and Ivicak added eight against last year’s seventh-place finishers as the 13th ranked team at the 2013 4A provincials.
The Skyhawks, 7-1 overall after going 39-1 last season as the two-time defending metro premier champions and winners of four straight 3A provincial gold medals, took the rare loss in stride.
“It only builds us a team. It makes us stronger and makes us realize that there are good teams out there that will compete with us at the level we play at,” Wise said.
It was the team’s first loss after 18 games, dating back to February’s 78-63 overtime setback to the 4A Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs of Calgary in the semifinal of the Panthers tournament.
“It’s a pretty exciting win but we know the next time we play them Kayla (Ivicak) will be back. She is one of their good players so it will be another fun game for revenge,” said Kumar, 17 of the Grade 12 co-captain who hasn’t played this season after suffering a lower body injury at the 3A provincial volleyball championships for the silver medallists.
Last weekend at the 32nd annual REB tournament at Jasper Place High School the Skyhawks edged the Raymond Comets 70-69 in Saturdays’ final.
The Panthers, the top team at the 21st annual Totem Hoop Classic at Ross Sheppard High School, lost Friday’s semifinal to the Comets 71-54.
The Panthers placed third with a 66-41 victory against the Virden Collegiate Golden Bears of Manitoba.
The Skyhawks also beat the Bears 71-50, as Marcichiw dropped in 18 and Wise, Ivicak and Steward posted 12 apiece.
The final was a cliffhanger that went down to the wire. A rugged defence frustrated the Comets in the early going but they refused to throw in the towel.
Wise racked up key points in the third quarter to keep the Skyhawks on top.
Sunder West of the Comets missed one of two free throws with only a few ticks on the clock and the game on the line.
West led all scorers with 26 points, including 18 in the first half.
“It was just a fantastic game. It was good to build our team together and make ourselves closer,” Wise said. “When our defence and our offence is working it shows what a team we are.”
The previous weekend the Skyhawks were victorious at the 16th annual Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier High School, defeating the two-time defending champion Dr. Martin LeBoldus Golden Suns of Regina 95-88 in the final.
But the REB thriller against the Comets was the best of the bunch.
“It was a great tournament for us for us,” Wise said. “It showed that we can compete against the top teams in 4A because we did compete against some Saskatchewan teams two weekends ago and Raymond (at the REB).
“It just shows that we are contenders for 4A provincials and that we’re good enough.”
The six-foot Grade 11 forward recorded 18 points and five rebounds in the final and was named the tournament MVP.
“I wouldn’t have got it if it wasn’t for my teammates. They set me up and they worked hard as a team,” said Wise, 16.
Steward also chipped in with 13.
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com for the team picture at the REB.