St. Albert rivals clash in today's metro Edmonton high school women's basketball playoff at the SkyDome
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 06:00 am
If the St. Albert Skyhawks are to three-peat in metro Edmonton high school basketball they will have to beat the rival Paul Kane Blues in today’s semifinal showdown.
The Battle of St. Albert between the Skyhawks (12-1 in metro and 26-3 overall) and the Blues (11-2 in metro and 23-8 overall) tips off at 5 p.m. at the SkyDome.
“We have to get pumped up for that game. It’s definitely going to be a battle,” said co-captain Isabelle Durocher after the Skyhawks downed the St. Francis Xavier Rams 66-50 in Monday’s playoff in St. Albert. “We have to play our best because we know they’re going to play their best.”
The Skyhawks, ranked third in 4A this year after winning four consecutive 3A provincial crowns, manhandled the No. 8-ranked 4A Blues in a four-day span last month by scores of 61-36 in the Skyhawks Invitational Tournament final and 69-31 in league play at the SkyDome.
Last season the Skyhawks blasted the Blues 83-54 and 80-41.
The last time the Blues celebrated a victory against the Skyhawks was the 2011 metro premier conference semifinal, 75-66 at the SkyDome.
The Blues are coming off their ninth straight win in league and tournaments combined, 71-66 over the Bev Facey Falcons (7-6), a 4A honourable mention, in Monday’s quarter-final match at Paul Kane.
“They’re a real good team. They come out hard. They want to win just as much as we do,” said Durocher, a pint-sized Grade 12 guard.
The winner will challenge the No. 4-ranked 4A Spruce Grove Panthers (12-1) or the No. 9-ranked Strathcona Lords (10-3) for the division one championship Saturday at 5 p.m. at Jasper Place High School.
After back-to-back undefeated metro campaigns the Skyhawks are gunning for their third banner in four years.
“There is always pressure for us to win but if we play our hardest we can do it,” said Durocher, one of seven returning Skyhawks from last season’s 39-1 championship line-up.
Monday the Skyhawks showed only a few flashes of brilliance against the Rams (7-6), the same team they polished off 84-43 in the last game before the playoffs.
“It was not our strongest game. We weren’t really consistent at all. There is still some stuff we have to work on,” Durocher said. “When we’re playing at our best we’re talking much more and our energy and intensity is up.”
The Skyhawks whipped up 12 unanswered points off the hop before the Rams replied with a field goal halfway through the first quarter.
After 10 minutes the Skyhawks led 23-10 and the halftime margin was 36-26.
The second half started with a bang, as Brielle Wise pumped in a three-pointer and Durocher dropped in two consecutive three-balls in the opening 3:57 minutes to make it 45-26.
After three quarters the Skyhawks were flying high at 56-30.
“We came out really hard in the first and then in the second we kind of slowed down a bit and let them back in it,” Durocher said. “In the third we picked it up because we knew we could play much better.”
In the fourth quarter Durocher drained another three-pointer and finished the win with 12 points, all in the second half.
Co-captain Kayla Ivicak led all scorers with 20 points on the strength of 16 in the first half.
Wise added 16 and Jamie Cole had eight for the Skyhawks, who haven’t missed a beat since moving up into the 4A provincial ranks after dominating the 3A playing field.
“It’s been a big push for us this year to get a 4A banner up on the wall,” said Durocher, 17. “We’ve definitely improved a lot throughout the season and we want to keep it going through the playoffs and provincials.”