To be the best you have to beat the best and the Paul Kane Blues did it at the REB Invitational.
The changing of the guard in high school women’s basketball started in Saturday’s final against the Jasper Place Rebels, winners of 45 games in a row before the Blues toppled the 2017 4A provincial gold medallists and metro Edmonton division one champions in spectacular fashion.
“It was a big statement win for us coming into their gym and showing them and the crowd and other people how we can play,” said Ella Stanley, the tournament MVP, of the 70-52 crowning achievement at Jasper Place High School as the Rebels suffered their first loss since the 2016 4A provincial final. “Our team played such a great game. We really deserved that win. We gave it our all.”
The thrill of victory was a powerful moment the Blues savoured with delight.
“I honestly had tears of joy. It was pretty amazing. It was probably one of the most amazing feelings that I’ve felt in a long time,” said Stanley, who riddled the Rebels with 19 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
“Despite being emotionally and physically exhausted we were just over the moon about it,” added Bronwen Barter, a tournament all-star. “It was a long road so there was a big sigh of relief. It’s been two years we’ve been trying and we finally got it. It’s a big mountain that we got over so it’s really exciting.”
Two weeks ago, the Blues fell short to the Rebels 73-65 in the final of the 20th annual Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier High School.
“When we lost to them in the FX tournament we were like ‘OK we need to actually play like we play and get it together’,” Stanley said. “We all knew we had it in us to beat them, we just never really showed it.”
The Blues trailed by nine after three quarters after leading by three at the end of the first quarter and 38-37 at halftime in the season-opening tournament.
“We were still a little bit intimidated by them,” Barter said. “At the REB we really wanted it. We really wanted to leave that image and imprint that this is our year and we’re ready to come out and show everyone we can beat Jasper Place.”
The Blues were unsuccessful last season against the Rebels by scores of 64-41 in the final of the Paul Kane Classic, 55-51 at PK in the last league game before the playoffs and 58-51 in the provincial quarter-finals at Lethbridge.
The Rebels capped off their 35-0 season with eight Grade 12s in the lineup and the current roster consists of two returning players and four Grade 12s in total, plus seven Grade 10s, including Haley Fedick who was unavailable for the REB because of last week’s cadet women’s national age-group assessment camp for players born in 2000 and later.
“Like every other year they’re always aggressive and they always have good rebounding, good shooters and really fast point guards,” Barter said. “Every year you expect the best from them.”
The Blues joined forces at both ends of the court to knock off the Rebels.
“One thing that I’ve noticed is that everyone has to be there on our team. It’s not just like one person that does all the work. Every person does their own part and if one person is not there we all kind of fall apart so everyone was there that night and we all worked together,” said Stanley, one of eight returning Blues on the 13-player roster fortified by six Grade 12s.
The Blues poured it on with gusto after halftime.
“It was pretty back and forth the first half and then we kind of pushed through into the fourth,” Stanley said. “The second half we came in and did our thing.”
The Blues poured in seven three-pointers, including four by Stanley.
“The score was too close for our liking at half so I think the shooting really helped us. Once we hit a three everyone was ecstatic and then we build on that with more threes. Everyone gets the energy and the intensity goes up after hitting one three,” said Barter, who pumped in 15 points while going 8-for-8 in free throws and grabbed nine rebounds.
Anika Steele tacked up 10 points and reeled in 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive boards.
The Blues were also up against not only a pretty good team but a pro-Jasper Place crowd.
“It’s always nerve-wracking playing another team in their gym. It can be tough with their fans but our team really pulled through and we were able to come out with that W,” said Stanley, 16.
The six-foot-two Grade 11 forward/guard racked up 47 points and 27 rebounds in three games while averaging almost four blocks per game as the top player in the tournament.
“Honestly, I don’t really know how I would’ve done it without my team because everyone is always working together with me and there is no way I would’ve been able to make all the these moves and shots without my team so they are really important,” said the Team Alberta player at the 2017 Canada Summer Games along with her Grade 12 sister, Alesha. Stanley also attended the 2016 cadet camp in December and this year’s U16 national assessment camp.
Over the course of the weekend, the Blues played solid lock-down defence in wins of 75-47 against the Western Canada Redhawks of Calgary and 77-60 against the JW North Huskies of Riverside, California, en route to winning the first REB title for Paul Kane as the second St. Albert team in the tournament’s 36-year history to accomplish the feat. The St. Albert Skyhawks were back-to-back champions in 2013 and 2014.
Now that the Blues beat the Rebels, they will have to do it multiple times this season in their quest for league and provincial honours while still playing at their very best against other teams.
“It definitely feels like we have a target on our backs now but we’re ready for every challenge that we face,” said Barter, 17, a Grade 12 forward who dropped 56 points overall in the tournament. “We take every game like it’s our last. We don’t focus on any other game and we’re just really in the moment.
“We treat everyone like they’re Jasper Place.”
FREE THROWS: The Blues improved to 3-0 in league play in Monday’s 64-31 result against the host O’Leary Spartans (0-3).
Barter drained three of the team’s six three-pointers. Stanley and Steele were the top scorers with 13 points apiece. Tegan MacKinnon and Kaitlyn Kluttig also turned in solid performances.
The last game before the Christmas break is today in Leduc against the Tigers (2-1) at 5:30 p.m.