Close call for Skyhawks
Host team at Skyhawks Invitational Tournament rallied to beat Medicine Hat Kwahommies
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 06:00 am
The will to win was greater than the depths of despair of losing for the host team at the Skyhawks Invitational Tournament.
The lady Skyhawks refused to let a lacklustre start drag them down in Thursday’s 54-45 decision against the Medicine Hat Kwahommies at the SkyDome.
“After the half we came out determined. We didn't want to lose this one so we pushed as hard as we could,” said Kayla Ivicak, co-captain of the No. 4-ranked 4A women’s basketball team in the province.
The Skyhawks avoided an upset after falling behind early in the first quarter and trailed 16-13 after the opening 10 minutes. They continued to struggle mightily as the first half ended with the visitors up 31-25 at halftime.
“We came out a little slow in the first half. Our offence took quite a while to set up, which hurt us a bit,” Ivicak said.
Earlier in the day the Skyhawks destroyed the Louis St. Laurent Barons 105-15 – no, that is not a misprint – and expected a similar cakewalk against the Kwahommies, an unranked 4A team.
“Because our game before this one was easier we came out a little mellow, especially with them having seven players and travelling here. We were expecting something else but they came out hard, they battled and they wanted it and that made us try harder,” said Ivicak, who dropped a team-leading 22 points on the beleaguered Barons, a 2-0 metro Edmonton division two team unranked in 3A.
The comeback gained momentum on Brielle Wise’s three-pointer, her first points of the contest, with 1:51 left in the third quarter to close the gap to 37-35.
A gutsy play by Marinya Marcichiw to sink her own shot while surrounded under the basket after taking a nasty spill tied it at 35 with 65 seconds to go before quarter time. Marcichiw’s extra effort with pain etched across her face to score seconds after injuring her leg was a defining moment in the team’s turnaround. She was not going to be denied the basket.
“Our effort after the half really got us going,” Ivicak said. “We went out there hitting the floor hard for every ball. We were also talking. Our zone helped a lot too. It got us into it with the talking and having to rely on each other some more.”
With two minutes gone in the final period, and the Kwahommies leading 42-39, Riki Steward drained a clutch shot that lit a fire under the Skyhawks.
After a defensive gem by Wise, Ivicak wired a jumper from in front of the paint with 7:27 to play to put the Skyhawks on top to stay.
Ivicak, 17, also made it 45-42 by tracking down the ball along the baseline after a miss by Steward and dribbled to her right before spinning around and unleashed a shot that hit nothing but net.
Wise’s three-pointer with 4:33 left capped off the nine-point run.
“We worked together down the stretch, which is what you need to do because it’s a team sport,” said Ivicak, a Grade 12 point guard who tacked up six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Her sister, Jessa, was the team’s top scorer with 13, highlighted by a stretch of six in a row in the third quarter.
Steward finished with nine points while going toe-to-toe with six-foot-two Jenna Spruyt despite a sizeable height disadvantage. Spruyt scored a game-high 20 points.
Wise chipped in with eight points after racking up 18 against the Barons and Aphia Ward tossed in two three-pointers in the first half against the Kwahommies.
Friday the Skyhawks played the Edmonton Christian Lions, ranked second in 3A, or the Sturgeon Heights Huskies of Winnipeg but the semifinal score was unavailable at press time.
Today the Skyhawks will hoop it up in the third-place game at 5 p.m. or the final at 7 p.m.
Depending on how the Paul Kane Blues do on the other side of the A bracket in the 12-team draw, the two rivals could hook up in the final as the organizers had planned.
A big buzz also surrounds the Battle of St. Albert on Tuesday between the Skyhawks and Blues. The metro Edmonton division one confrontation tips off at 6:30 p.m. at the SkyDome.
The Skyhawks, the two-time defending premier (now division one) champions, are 3-1 in league play and 13-2 overall. It’s their first season at the 4A level after winning a record four-straight 3A provincial titles.
The Blues are 5-0 in division one and 11-4 overall.
“It’s always been competition between us to see who is the best in St. Albert so you go out and compete your hardest,” said Ivicak, a third-year Skyhawk.
Thursday marked the Skyhawks’ return to action since losing the Coyote Invitational Tournament final in Lethbridge.
“That was a good tournament for us to see where we stood with the rest of the 4A teams. That weekend we went and tried our hardest and we played well. It’s just too bad that we couldn't pull through in the final but it will make us work harder when we get into provincials hopefully,” said Ivicak, a tournament all-star.
In the final the No. 1-ranked 4A Chinook Coyotes downed the Skyhawks 61-40. The hosts outscored the Skyhawks 21-7 in the second quarter to lead 37-19 at halftime.
“They were a big team and they worked well together as a team. They know how each other played, which helps a lot,” Ivicak said.
This weekend’s tournament marks the final push towards the league playoffs and provincials.
“We want to go out and win and try our hardest. The big thing is we can’t come out flat. Most games we haven't come out very strong and then we’re peaking and we keep it that way,” Ivicak said. “We also need to stop our dips. We need to be more consistent.”
The U17 Team Alberta player is rounding into top form after spraining both ankles in late November at the provincial volleyball championships for the 3A silver medallists and missing the first eight games of the season.
“I’m pretty good but a little sore.”