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Skyhawks sink Blues

Skyhawks soar to victory at their high school women's basketball tournament with fast start in Saturday's final

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 06:00 am

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  • PUSHING FORWARD - Rachel McIntyre of the Paul Kane Blues dribbles past Jamie Bain of the St. Albert Skyhawks in Saturday's final at the third annual Skyhawks Invitational Tournament. The Skyhawks outscored the Blues 22-4 in the first quarter, en route to the 61-36 victory.
    PUSHING FORWARD - Rachel McIntyre of the Paul Kane Blues dribbles past Jamie Bain of the St. Albert Skyhawks in Saturday's final at the third annual Skyhawks Invitational Tournament. The Skyhawks outscored the Blues 22-4 in the first quarter, en route to the 61-36 victory.
    CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
  • TOP SCORER - Marinya Marcichiw of the St. Albert Skyhawks led all scorers with 17 points in Saturday's 61-36 win over the Paul Kane Blues in the final at the third annual Skyhawks Invitational Tournament.
    TOP SCORER - Marinya Marcichiw of the St. Albert Skyhawks led all scorers with 17 points in Saturday's 61-36 win over the Paul Kane Blues in the final at the third annual Skyhawks Invitational Tournament.
  • BATTLE OF ST. ALBERT - Kaitlyn Hunder of the Paul Kane Blues keeps close tabs on Brielle Wise of the St. Albert Skyhawks in Saturday's final at the third annual Skyhawks Invitational Tournament. The Skyhawks won 61-36.
    BATTLE OF ST. ALBERT - Kaitlyn Hunder of the Paul Kane Blues keeps close tabs on Brielle Wise of the St. Albert Skyhawks in Saturday's final at the third annual Skyhawks Invitational Tournament. The Skyhawks won 61-36.
  • TOURNAMENT CHAMPS - Aphia Ward points to the Skyhawks Invitational Tournament trophy co-captain Kayla Ivicak is holding after the St. Albert Skyhawks thumped the Paul Kane Blues 61-36 in Saturday's final. The win was the 15th in 17 games for the No. 4-ranked 4A team in Alberta. It was also the third tournament victory in four tourneys for the Skyhawks, finalists at the Coyote Invitational Tournament in Lethbridge last month.
    TOURNAMENT CHAMPS - Aphia Ward points to the Skyhawks Invitational Tournament trophy co-captain Kayla Ivicak is holding after the St. Albert Skyhawks thumped the Paul Kane Blues 61-36 in Saturday's final. The win was the 15th in 17 games for the No. 4-ranked 4A team in Alberta. It was also the third tournament victory in four tourneys for the Skyhawks, finalists at the Coyote Invitational Tournament in Lethbridge last month.

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The first round in the Battle of St. Albert was shorter than expected before the St. Albert Skyhawks declared victory against the Paul Kane Blues in high school women’s basketball.

The Skyhawks ambushed the ill-prepared Blues for 22 points in the opening 10 minutes for a commanding 18-point advantage to kick-start the 61-36 rout in the Skyhawks Invitational Tournament final Saturday night.

“We came out strong, we dictated the game and we made it our tempo,” said Skyhawks’ co-captain Kayla Ivicak, the tournament MVP. “We really showed that we really wanted to battle with them. We showed them what we had and gave it our all.”

The Skyhawks – ranked fourth in their first season in 4A after winning a historic fourth consecutive 3A provincial banner – were pumped to play their city rivals.

“We were really prepared. We knew they were going to come at us. They said they wanted to have a good game so we had to come out strong,” said Riki Steward, the tough-as-nails Skyhawks post. “We were really good at boxing out, getting rebounds, pushing in transition and getting easies in the first quarter and first half.”

The Blues – 5-0 in metro Edmonton division one and 12-5 overall – were gunning for the Skyhawks but fired blanks during an erratic 15-point effort in the first half to trail by 18 at the break.

“We weren’t really ready for the intensity they came out with so early. We know how to play against it but it was almost the shock of having them that close up and in our face,” said Paul Kane winger Kaitlyn Hunder, the team’s MVP in the tournament. “In the end we kind of lost on the lead we gave them in the beginning.”

Stage fright was another factor in the Blues demise.

“There definitely was a sense of us being nervous. They’re a really good team and ranked and we really wanted to go out there and beat them and there is always that pressure to do that,” Hunder said. “But I was really proud of how we played. They’re really good competition for us.”

The only moral victory for the Blues in a game that was done before the end of the first quarter was outscoring the Skyhawks 13-7 in the last 10 minutes of play.

“We’re going to use the positives that we can take out of this game in the third and fourth and even in the second (quarter). We started moving the ball, looking to attack and working more as a team on offence and on defence,” Hunder said.

The teams renewed their heated rivalry Tuesday in league play at the SkyDome, but the score was unavailable at press time.

“I hope that we can do much better on Tuesday and give them an even better game,” Hunder said.

The Skyhawks – winners of the last two metro premier (now division one) championships – were 3-1 in league play and 15-2 overall after beating the Blues.

“Definitely it’s a good feeling but Tuesday is when it’s actually going to count so we have to make sure that we go out and do the exact same thing that we did tonight,” Ivicak said. “We played well together as a team, we were doing all the little things right and it was working for us.”

Steward stressed the Skyhawks can’t take the Blues for granted despite Saturday’s dominating performance.

“We definitely can’t let it get to our heads. We have to forget about this one and keep pushing on to the next game,” she said. “They might come out stronger after they’ve seen what we can do so we’ve got to be prepared and pull out some other stuff that we know how to do.”

An inspired Marinya Marcichiw of the Skyhawks led all scorers in the final with 17 points, including seven in the decisive first quarter. The Grade 11 forward was especially effective in the paint against the overmatched Blues.

Ivicak chipped in with eight points and her rebounding was outstanding.

Jessa Ivicak, Jamie Cole, Brielle Wise and Steward recorded seven points apiece. Jessa and Steward were named tournament all-stars.

The tournament title was the third in four tourneys for the Skyhawks, finalists at the Coyote Invitational Tournament in Lethbridge last month.

“It shows that we’re here to win. We know what to do and how to push and work together as a team. If we work together as a team then we’ll win as a team,” said Steward, 16, who drained a team-high 14 points in the 64-44 semifinal win over the Edmonton Christian Lions, ranked second in 3A.

It’s been a remarkable season for the Skyhawks as they strive towards their third metro league championship in four years in the team’s inaugural 4A campaign.

“Even though we’re the small dogs as a 3A school we’re still going to go out and compete just like any other school. We’re not going to let up,” said Ivicak, 17.

Listed as a point guard but plays like a forward, Ivicak was a deserving choice as the tournament MVP. Her all-around performance in the final showed why she is the No. 1 female basketball player in St. Albert this season.

“It’s nice that they recognize that I’m going hard and trying my hardest and doing everything I can for the team,” said the Grade 12 Skyhawk who scored 11 points against Lions.

As for the Blues, a 4A honourable mention, Sydney Hurlburt was the top scorer in the final with 14 points. The Grade 11 standout racked up nine points in the second quarter.

Rachel McIntyre tossed in eight points and Tiana Woyewitka had seven as the Blues were the runners-up for the second time in tournament play.

In the semifinals the Blues knocked off the No. 7-ranked 4A Bev Facey Falcons 54-46 with a strong fourth quarter charge. Hurlburt dropped in 12 points, Hunder and McIntyre netted 10 apiece and Julie Fagan had eight.

“I was so proud of how we played at this tournament. Before the exam break we had kind of a rough tournament at our PK Invitational but we were able to come through and show that was kind of a weak spot. We proved that we’re as good as we think we are,” said Hunder, 17, a strong Grade 12 defender who also contributes offensively.


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