The door of opportunity was slammed shut with the Paul Kane Blues poised to seize the moment against the No. 1 team in 4A provincial women’s basketball.
Paul Kane kept pace with the Jasper Place Rebels until a second-half surge buried the No. 2-ranked Blues in Wednesday’s 57-44 statement game in the metro Edmonton division one league.
“They took control in the second half for sure in ways that we should’ve taken control and we didn’t,” said Alesha Stanley after the Blues were out-scored 33-24 in the last two periods in the Paul Kane gym. “Our scoring dropped a little bit and our confidence went down a little bit.”
Down by four at the break, Paul Kane amped it up with three-pointers by Bronwen Barter and Tegan MacKinnon before the Rebels got down to business with a pivotal seven-point run and never looked back while comfortably in the lead.
“In the second half we set the tone and played our game more. It felt good,” said Sydney Fedick, a standout Grade 12 forward who poured in 17 of her game-high 22 points after halftime. “The first half we were playing well but fouling, kind of bailing out I guess, and not playing our hardest
“The second half felt a lot better.”
Down by eight after three quarters, Paul Kane fell behind by 12 three minutes into the last period and decisive back-to-back threes by Sarah Rinsky and Fedick left the Blues trailing 55-39 with 3:28 to play.
“Our team worked really hard. We worked well as a team. A lot of shots and things were connecting and our plays we’re going well,” Fedick said.
The showdown between the two undefeated division one teams was too close to call in the first half with the Rebels in front 10-9 after the first quarter and 24-20 at halftime with the Blues hanging tough against the defending 4A champions and 2016 provincial silver medallists.
“Our whole team was ready and excited to play and we came out playing really hard and then our energy decreased a little bit throughout the game but we were supportive of each other the whole way through,” Stanley said. “JP played a really good game. Their leaders stepped in. They just had a really good game.”
Paul Kane struggled mightily trying to stop Fedick – the player of the game was a dominating force at both ends of the floor – and Rinsky was no slouch either as a Grade 12 buzzsaw at guard with 12 points and two big threes in the second half.
The Blues were led by MacKinnon’s three three-pointers and Ella Stanley’s eight points. Kaitlyn Kluttig and Jenae John also provided offensive bursts.
Paul Kane is now 9-1 in division one and 23-5 after its third setback in four games against the Rebels.
When asked if it was a disappointing loss, Stanley replied: “It is but it’s not something to get worked up about. We have another shot at playing them so we just have to work towards that and turn the page and focus on the next task at hand I guess.”
Both teams have one game remaining before the playoffs start Feb. 26 – the Rebels visit the No. 9-ranked St. Albert Skyhawks (8-1) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. – and the final is March 3 at 5 p.m. at Jasper Place.
The Rebels, winners of consecutive division one banners, improved 10-0 in league play and 23-2 overall after what they viewed as a bounce-back game following last weekend’s tournament-opening loss at the Western Canada Redhawks Invitational, 80-79 on the last play of the game to the Raymond Comets, a 4A honourable mention. The Rebels went on to post wins of 62-31 over the Strathcona Lords and 58-33 over the St. Mary’s Saints of Calgary in the consolation bracket.
The Rebels are expected to maintain their No. 1 status when the next 4A rankings are released this weekend by the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association and Paul Kane could slip a notch or two in the top-10 listings.
“It’s a very important win. It’s good for our team,” Fedick said. “Paul Kane is a great team with lots of height, really good players, good shooters and stuff like that so it really helps our team to play this good competition. We don’t always get that in league games and so playing teams like this is great.”
Last year the Rebels won all three games against the Blues by 23 points in the final of the Paul Kane Classic, four points at PK in the last league game before the playoffs and seven points in the provincial quarter-finals and continued to hold the upper hand this season with seven Grade 10s on the 11-player roster. In three tournament finals the scores were 73-65 for the Rebels on Dec. 2 at the 20th annual Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier High School, 70-52 for the Blues on Dec. 16 at the 36th annual REB Invitational at Jasper Place, which ended a 45-game winning streak for the Rebels, and 59-52 for the JP team Jan. 13 at the Paul Kane Classic.
“Throughout all the games (against Paul Kane this season) we played pretty consistently. I can’t say there is one that stood out or one where our performance was higher than the other,” Fedick said. “It’s deeper in the season and our team has better chemistry so I think things were connecting today that weren’t connecting before but we really just work game by game.”
Wednesday’s showcase of talent featured four U17 Team Alberta players at the 2017 Canada Summer Games: Fedick, Rinsky and the Stanley sisters, as well as Abby Morrison of the Skyhawks who was spotted at courtside watching the game.
Fedick, 17, a Sherwood Park product, and Morrison have also committed to the Alberta Pandas, while Alesha Stanley and Rinsky have been recruited by the Mount Royal College Cougars.
Stanley’s official U Sports signing is Wednesday when Paul Kane hosts the Archbishop MacDonald Marauders (6-3) at 6:30 p.m.
“Before the game I have my signing event with Mount Royal and the coaching staff (including head coach Nate McKibbon of the Cougars) and then after the game against Mac we’re going to have a Senior Night and just congratulate all the seniors for having a great three years,” said Stanley, a top-notch guard/forward.. “I’m really happy that I’m going there because it’s a really good school for me. I really enjoyed my visit and I get to play with Sarah Rinsky from JP which I’m really excited about.
“It’s will be a good change for me.”
Stanley, 17, is one of six Grade 12s on the roster of 13 players, including eight returnees from the 2017 division one semifinalists that finished 2-1 at provincials on the championship side of the draw.
The Blues have high hopes of bringing home a provincial medal when the 16-team tournament tips off March 15 in Medicine Hat.
“It’s a really exciting time right now for us, especially the seniors. It’s giving us a lot of good energy even if we’re not having the best game. We’re playing well with each other. We’re supportive and we’re positive and we’re doing really well. It’s helping us get ready for the big games,” Stanley said.