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Blues better than expected

Paul Kane a team to fear in high school women's basketball

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 06:00 am

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  • BALL CONTROL - Rachel McIntyre of the Paul Kane Blues protects the ball against Leah Beeler of the Fort McMurray Miners in Thursday's opening game at the Paul Kane Invitational Tournament. The Blues won 66-23. The women's final goes tonight at 7 p.m.
    BALL CONTROL - Rachel McIntyre of the Paul Kane Blues protects the ball against Leah Beeler of the Fort McMurray Miners in Thursday's opening game at the Paul Kane Invitational Tournament. The Blues won 66-23. The women's final goes tonight at 7 p.m.
    CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
  • LOCKED IN - Julie Fagan of the Paul Kane Blues is focused on scoring against the Fort McMurray Miners in Thursday's 66-23 blowout at the Paul Kane Invitational Tournament. Today the Blues play in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. or the final at 7 p.m.
    LOCKED IN - Julie Fagan of the Paul Kane Blues is focused on scoring against the Fort McMurray Miners in Thursday's 66-23 blowout at the Paul Kane Invitational Tournament. Today the Blues play in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. or the final at 7 p.m.

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The Paul Kane Blues are the real deal in high school women’s basketball after Wednesday’s statement game against the Harry Ainlay Titans.

Sydney Hurlburt’s clutch three-pointer with seconds remaining in overtime toppled the No. 7-ranked 4A Titans 70-67 at Harry Ainlay.

“It was very exciting. The atmosphere was like a championship game,” said Hurlburt.

The Grade 11 wing displayed grace under pressure while draining the game-winning basket.

“I wasn't making very many shots that game so when I just shot it I was just hoping for it to go in. When it went in it was a good feeling,” Hurlburt said.

The Blues didn’t blink in the face of adversity after the Titans forced overtime.

“We really came together that game. Everything clicked for us,” Hurlburt said. “I feel that was our best game so far.”

The post-game euphoria was vintage YouTube material.

“Honestly, our celebration afterwards described perfectly how we felt. All of us were so completely overwhelmed, especially with how we played. We played as a team and we won in overtime and that’s a great feeling all together,” said Grade 12 post Julie Fagan.

The Blues raised their metro Edmonton league record to 4-0 in the division one standings after the team’s most important victory since the playoff upset of the St. Albert Skyhawks 75-66 in the 2011 metro Edmonton premier (now division one) semifinal at the SkyDome.

“It was one of those wins we needed under our belts for when we play SACHS and other teams like that,” Fagan said. “For us to pull off that win we gelled so well as a team and once you get your whole team together and you get them with the same mindset it’s a great thing to see.”

Four division one teams – the 3-1 Skyhawks (No. 2), 5-0 Spruce Grove Panthers (No. 5), 3-1 Titans and 4-1 Bev Facey Falcons (No. 9) – are ranked top-10 in 4A ahead of the Blues, an honourable mention in the first provincial rankings.

“Last year was kind of a rebuilding year for us so they base those (first) rankings on not just this year but last year,” Fagan said. “If they saw us play this year we would be a lot higher, but we’re coming and we’re moving up.”

The 11-player roster features six returnees from last season’s 5-8 showing and opening playoff round loss in premier. The Blues also won tournaments at Namao, Stony Plain and Strathcona.

The team’s overall mark this season is 9-2 after burying the Fort McMurray Miners 66-23 in Thursday’s opening game at the Paul Kane Invitational Tournament.

“I think teams expect us to play how we played last year so when we come out really hard they’re surprised,” Hurlburt said. “This year we really feel that we’re a strong team. We’re shooting well, we’re pushing it more and when we play together we play really good.

“We’ve also been playing together for a while and we’ve been keeping up our communication.”

Hurlburt, 16, dropped in 26 points in limited playing time against the overmatched Miners, who dressed only eight players. They trailed 20-6 after the first quarter, 36-12 at halftime and 62-19 after three quarters.

Paige Derworiz tossed in 12 points, Rachel McIntyre added eight and Julia Nicholson had seven for the Blues.

“After coming off a big win it’s kind of typical to come down and in this game we didn’t do too well. We were a little bit lazy and not intense,” Fagan said.

In Friday’s semifinal the Blues played the winner of Thursday’s game between the Bellerose Bulldogs and Balfour Collegiate Redmen of Regina. The score was unavailable at press time.

Today the Blues will hoop it up in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. or the final at 7 p.m.

“I would like to see us in the championship game. I think it’s a spot where we can work our way up to and succeed in. It would also boost morale,” Fagan said. “If we win this tournament it will give us that little extra edge that we need going into the exam break.”

The second half of the season promises to bring out the best in the Blues.

“Our goal is to get to the playoffs and hopefully win the championship and then our ultimate goal is provincials,” Fagan said. “The first half was let’s get in shape, let’s focus and get down to business and now we’ll go into the exam break and practice hard. One of the things our coaches stress is we all need to have championship practices because if we want to play as a championship team and win the championship we need to have championship practices.”

The first league game after the exam break is Feb. 4 against the Skyhawks at 6:30 p.m. at the SkyDome.

“It will be a good game. Hopefully we can keep up to them. I guess we’ll find out,” Hurlburt said.

It’s shaping up to be the game of the year in St. Albert high school basketball. The rivalry isn’t as nasty and belligerent as the Skyhawks versus the Bellerose Bulldogs in football, but it definitely has an edge similar to the growing gridiron animosity between Paul Kane and Skyhawks.

Fagan, 17, is confident the Blues will give the Skyhawks all they can handle after losses of 83-54 and 80-41 last season.

“We held our own with Spruce Grove (68-34 loss in the final of the Totem Hoop Classic on Dec. 7) and Spruce Grove beat SACHS (59-53 in league play Dec. 16 in St. Albert) so comparatively we’re right on their tails and we’re nipping at their heels.”


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