Skyhawks three-peat in junior hoops
St. Albert High junior women's basketball team wins metro Edmonton division one championship to finish 23-2 overall
Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 06:00 am
Jasper Place – It was a sweet repeat for the St. Albert Skyhawks in the top junior women’s division in metro Edmonton basketball.
And to topple the Harry Ainlay Titans in Saturday’s final was extra special for the Skyhawks.
“We had to beat them,” declared Robyn Kerr after pouring in 22 points in the 64-53 decision. “It would’ve been mentally hard for us not to win this game. We had to win a banner.”
The Skyhawks lost only two games and the one that really stung was the 54-52 setback against the Titans last month at Harry Ainlay with first place on the line and both division one teams undefeated in league play.
The Skyhawks were pumped to play the rematch at full strength after a school trip to New Orleans left the team short three players and only seven bodies were available in the loss.
With a full line-up the Skyhawks defeated the Titans in the final at the St. Albert High tournament and the semifinals at the 32 annual REB Invitational at Jasper Place.
“They bring it every time and they brought it today. It was tough competition for us but we came out with a banner in the end,” said co-captain Maddy Killoh after the team’s 23rd win this season. “It was one of those games where we just gave everything we had on the court and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
The Skyhawks lit it up with an electrifying performance at both ends of the floor when the Titans attempted to grab control of the game down the stretch.
“We were pretty nervous against our biggest rivals but we kind of turned that into excitement and it really drove us through the game. We kept pushing stronger and stronger,” Killoh said. “If you keep a positive vibe and just play the mind games as well as the physical game you can pull anything off.”
With under two minutes left in the third quarter, after Killoh’s put-back made it 39-34 Skyhawks, the Titans closed it out with three points and then rattled off seven straight to start the fourth period to lead by five.
After a timeout by head coach Teresa Wallsten to rally the troops, Kerr dropped in three-straight free throws after being fouled shooting a three-ball with 7:45 to play to ignite the comeback.
“I needed to do it. If I didn’t then we could’ve probably been in a lull or in a down state for a long time. We needed that to get things kick-started and then we kept on going,” said Kerr, who racked up nine points in the decisive quarter.
Carly Zimmer's bank shot evened the count and Jade Unger's one-handed layup from the outside with 6:33 to go put the Skyhawks on top for good.
With a victory celebration only minutes away the Skyhawks ramped it up as Kerr converted a Killoh dish and less than a minute later Killoh hit nothing but net.
After the Titans hit one of two free throws, Kerr's long jumper kept the Skyhawks soaring at 53-45.
During an eight-point run to seal the deal at 60-47 with 1:27 to play, Killoh drained a pair of shots, Kerr deposited her third field goal of the quarter and Nicole Harrison weaved her way through the paint to score.
Kerr, 15, stressed losing was not an option when the Titans threatened to pull away in the last quarter.
“We had to mentally put in our brain that this was our last 10 minutes. If we didn’t win it for us, our coaches and our fans then we would be down on ourselves for probably the next season,” said the Grade 10 post. “We had to do this for the people who are returning next year to play. We had to do it for our school that we represent. We had to come back and beat them so we could win a banner for everybody.”
Killoh noted the team’s confidence never wavered in the face of adversity.
“We all had an abundant amount of energy just because of the positivity that was going on the court and that positivity drove us all the way to the end. We were there for each other the whole game and giving each other high fives all the time,” said the Grade 11 wing, who scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter.
In the first half the Skyhawks turned an 11-8 deficit at the end of the first quarter into a 24-19 lead at the break. Harrison led the charge with 11 points, including a three-pointer for the go-ahead points early in the second quarter. Harrison finished with 13 points overall and Zimmer and Unger had seven apiece. Unger’s three-pointer in the third quarter gave the Skyhawks a boost at 31-26.
Communication was a key component of the team's game plan for success, according to Killoh.
“We started talking it up more. In the semis (51-31 over the Edmonton Christian Lions) we weren’t talking as much and today we made that our prime goal and we did that really well,” said Killoh, who sat out last season with a concussion.
The Skyhawks, winners of three out of four tournaments this season with four returnees on the roster, ended the metro campaign at 12-1. The Titans finished 11-2.
“It’s extremely satisfying to win. I have an unending love for SACHS and after winning this the whole team is going to be real happy on Monday walking into that school,” said Killoh, who turns 17 on Thursday.
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to view the team banner picture.