Skyhawks soar to provincial bronze
High school women's basketball team wins bronze in first trip to 4A provincials to finish the season 30-5 overall
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 06:00 am
A bronze medal was pure gold for the St. Albert Skyhawks at their provincial 4A basketball debut.
The 30th win in 35 games for the St. Albert Catholic High School team was Saturday’s 56-51 conquest of the Spruce Grove Panthers at the University of Lethbridge.
The bronze-medal showdown was a rematch of the metro Edmonton division one women’s final as the Panthers prevailed 70-65 to end the Skyhawks’ two-year reign as league champions.
“We are right up there with the best of the best in 4A,” said head coach Paige Gaudreau. “We set out to be in the league final and go to provincials. We went in ranked fourth and came out ranked third. It just validates where our program is and where it’s going to go in terms of we still want to get better.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to view the bronze-medal team picture.
The Skyhawks successfully made the leap of faith to 4A after four consecutive 3A provincial banners and only two teams beat them this season: the Panthers three times and the second loss to the Chinook Coyotes of Lethbridge was 72-69 in the 4A semifinals.
“It was time to step up with the big dogs and give ourselves a new challenge,” Gaudreau said. “All the girls that come to SACHS are very serious about basketball and typically want to move on to the next level. They know that we are trying to help them do that here.”
At provincials the Skyhawks soldiered on without Grade 11 starter Marinya Marcichiw, who averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game this season. The U17 Team Alberta forward at the 2013 Canada Summer Games was sidelined by a concussion suffered late in the third quarter in the metro final.
“With Marinya out we knew people were going to have to step up and they did at different times on different days in different ways,” Gaudreau said.
Grade 12 co-captain Kayla Ivicak and Grade 11 forward Brielle Wise played prominent roles at provincials.
“Kayla led the charge every game, never to be out-worked by anyone and doing all the little things,” Gaudreau said. “Brielle was our defensive stopper and defended the other team’s best player each game.”
In the tournament opener Thursday the Skyhawks breezed past the No. 13-ranked St. Francis Browns of Calgary 67-52. Ivicak racked up 17 points and 19 rebounds, Wise sank 15 points and had six assists and co-captain Isabelle Durocher collected 10 points.
Friday the Skyhawks pounded the No. 5-ranked Centennial Coyotes of Calgary 77-53 for a semifinal date later in the day with Chinook.
Ivicak notched 19 points and eight rebounds, Wise drained 17 points and Riki Steward recorded 14 points and six rebounds.
The Skyhawks stumbled out of the gate against Chinook, ranked No. 1 in the tournament, and fell behind 7-0 before Jessa Ivicak sparked a 12-0 point run to put them on top. The first quarter ended with the Skyhawks ahead 18-16 and at halftime led 35-33.
Grade 10 guard Jamie Bain hit three three-pointers in the first half and finished the game with five rebounds.
In the second half Chinook regained the lead with 10 straight points and after three quarters the Skyhawks trailed 57-49.
After falling behind 66-54 the Skyhawks responded with seven unanswered points. Chinook replied with a free throw and then a jumper to go up 69-61.
A huge three-pointer by Wise was followed by a clutch three by Durocher to pull the Skyhawks to within two at 69-67.
With time winding down the teams traded free throws, and a pair by Steward cut the deficit to 71-69.
The Skyhawks fouled again and Chinook made one out of two free throws with only seconds remaining.
“We had the ball at the end of the game with about 10 seconds left and had the opportunity to take it down and have a shot and unfortunately we didn’t get a shot up but could’ve potentially taken it to overtime had we been able to execute and get a three,” Gaudreau said.
Wise and Jessa tossed in 13 points apiece while tracking down seven and five rebounds, respectively. Kayla added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Steward had nine points.
The next day the Skyhawks shook off the loss to Chinook to medal against the No. 3-ranked Panthers, who were coming off an 87-54 drubbing by the No. 2-ranked Raymond Comets in the semifinals. The Comets went on to beat Chinook 61-55 in the final.
“We were really happy with how the girls played all day Friday. We came out super strong against Centennial and beat them quite handily, which I think gave us the confidence we needed to go into the Chinook game,” Gaudreau said. “Having played Chinook so close and almost beating them, our team was very proud of how we played.”
The Skyhawks were determined to snap their losing streak against the Panthers with a medal on the line.
“The girls were very excited for the opportunity to get one more game against them,” Gaudreau said. “I jokingly said to the girls that mathematically speaking I didn’t think it was possible to lose a fourth time to them.”
The Skyhawks stormed into quarter leads of 14-6 after one and 33-18 after two.
In the second half the Skyhawks struggled to score after the Panthers switched to a 23 zone. The Skyhawks were outscored 19-10 while trying to get untracked offensively.
With under two minutes to play, and the Skyhawks up by two, Jamie Cole subbed on and the Grade 11 forward wired a momentum-shifting jumper and then Durocher got a steal and Cole nailed another decisive jumper for her sixth point of the game to make it 55-49.
The lead increased to seven after Kayla converted one of two free throws.
The Panthers closed out the scoring with two free throws.
“I think we had a little bit of an advantage going into the game in terms of we had a very good day Friday, where they struggled a little bit more. We had confidence whereas they kind of had to refocus a little bit more,” Gaudreau said.
Kayla dropped in 19 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Jessa chipped in with 17 points and 14 rebounds and received a sportsmanship pin after the win.
The Skyhawks lose only two players to graduation – Kayla and Durocher – and five of the eight returnees next season will be in Grade 12.