The St. Albert Skyhawks are playing their best basketball of the season with a championship swagger.
“We can definitely feel it. We’re rising. We’re peaking at the right time,” said Kamryn DeKlerk of the high-flying 25-6 Skyhawks after the 29-point margin of victory against the Leduc Tigers in Wednesday’s semifinal.
“We keep getting better. We have some lulls but we’ve really started to limit them in our games by playing intense the whole time and that starts in practice just by keeping the intensity up there and that transfers into the game and then game after game.”
The Skyhawks have the backing of Big Mo in today’s metro Edmonton division one senior women’s final against the Jasper Place Rebels. Tipoff is 5 p.m. at Jasper Place.
Both teams are 12-1 in division one and the lone loss for the Rebels was 68-59 against the Skyhawks last week.
“We’ve definitely proved that we can be there and we can play with these teams. It’s very exciting going in knowing we’re going to compete,” said DeKlerk, a Grade 10 guard who pumped in 23 points against the Tigers at the SkyDome.
The result will determine the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked Edmonton zone teams at the 16-team 4A provincials, March 15 to 17 at Medicine Hat.
The Rebels are the defending provincial champions and 2016 finalists and the Skyhawks are last year’s consolation champions.
The second 4A provincial rankings of the season have the Rebels slotted No. 1 and the Skyhawks are No. 10.
“We’re going to have to obviously keep going from where we’re at and it’s going to be even harder. Provincials is ultimately where we want to be and ultimately where we want to win,” DeKlerk said. “These games are all just stepping stones for us. It definitely prepares us.”
The Rebels are 28-3 overall after upending the Paul Kane Blues 69-56 in Wednesday’s semifinal at Jasper Place.
The winners of back-to-back division one banners led 19-9 after the first quarter and 42-27 at halftime en route to the fourth win in five league and tournament games against the No. 4-ranked 4A Blues (11-2).
The Rebels have a score to settle in the third game of the season against the Skyhawks. The first meeting was 59-54 for the Rebels in the semifinal of the Paul Kane Classic as the Skyhawks’ eight-player rotation in the tournament ran out of time battling back from a 20-point deficit. In the second tilt, the Skyhawks poured it on with under four minutes to play to outscore the Rebels 15-5. Period scores were 15-13 Rebels after the first, 30-24 Skyhawks at halftime and 46-46 after three quarters.
“They’re going to want to win so we just have to want it more. We wanted it that game we played them and now we just have to want it again. Now we know we’re capable and they know we’re capable. They’re not going to underestimate us like they did last time time so I think that’s huge and we’re going to have to play really well,” DeKlerk said.
The Rebels – tournament champions at the Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier, Victoria, Paul Kane Classic and Tri-Prov at Harry Ainlay – are still the team to beat and the Skyhawks will have their hands full against a lineup that includes Grade 12 standouts Sydney Fedick and Sarah Rinsky.
“We’re still the underdogs in a sense that we’ve always been the underdogs and that’s a chip on our shoulder. We take pride in that and but I do think it will be more equal like ranking-wise. I think they will give us more respect and we’ll give them the same respect as before,” DeKlerk said.
The last division one final for the Skyhawks was two years ago and the 61-53 loss to the Rebels marked the third straight second-place playoff finish for the St. Albert Catholic High School team. The final was also the sixth in seven years during a run of premier (now division one) championships in 2010, 2012 and 2013 for the Skyhawks, who are competing in their fifth 4A season after a record four consecutive 3A provincial banners and in 2014 they were 4A bronze medallists.
“It’s huge for everybody to make it to the final,” DeKlerk said. “We’re all really looking forward to it and we’re really proud of getting there.”
The Skyhawks are back with a bang in the final after pounding the fourth-place Tigers (9-4) 73-44. Last year’s division two champions are a 4A honourable mention in the provincial rankings.
“We definitely underestimated them the first time we played them,” said DeKlerk of the must-win 68-56 contest at the SkyDome the day after beating the Rebels that created a three-way logjam at the top of the division one standings. A tiebreaker involving head-to-head games between the three 10-1 teams put the Skyhawks on top at plus-five, the Rebels finished second at plus-four and the Blues were third at minus-nine.
“We just played our game today. Before we were kind of playing how they wanted us to play and I think we definitely played as who we were today,” added DeKlerk, who recorded 11 points in the second quarter and 16 overall in the first half as the Skyhawks led 34-18 at the break.
DeKlerk was also whistled for three travelling violations in the first quarter as Leduc enjoyed a brief 7-2 advantage before the Skyhawks closed out the 10-minute frame up 17-11.
Brooke Froment pumped in a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter from the same corner spot on the floor and Abby Morrison, Teå DeMong and Aine Murphy also tossed in threes in the second half as the Skyhawks extended the lead to 56-31 at quarter time.
Morrison finished with 16 points, DeMong posted 11 and Murphy added seven.
Bullish rebounding by Mimi Sigue despite sparse playing time in the second half also contributed to the team’s fourth win in a row after the 55-51 loss to the Blues on Feb. 12 at the SkyDome.
DeKlerk, 15, DeMong and Sigue are among six newcomers on the 10-player roster.
DeKlerk hails from Rollyview and joined the Skyhwks after playing junior high hoops in Leduc.
“I came here for shadow day and I loved the environment and just the school itself. I was comfortable from the minute I got here which was super important to me and of course the basketball really helps. I knew I would be playing with people I have enjoyed playing with before,” said DeKlerk who played on the U15 provincial team in 2017 with DeMong, as well as Jenna Rinsky, Dani Nadeau, Larissa Stephenson and Haley Fedick of the Rebels, and in 2016 with Froment, Murphy and the injured Bella Cuciz of the Skyhawks.
The Bellerose Bulldogs won their respective semifinals Wednesday for berths in the metro Edmonton championship weekend at Jasper Place.
Bellerose (9-4) played the Spruce Grove Panthers (13-0) Friday in the division two senior men’s final but the score was unavailable at press time.
The division three senior women’s final between the Bulldogs (12-0) and Parkland Immanuel Penguins (7-5) tips off at 4 p.m. today.
The Bulldogs beat the Penguins 68-45 in the season opener and Bellerose lost 87-73 to the Panthers on Feb. 5.
The semifinals results were 56-40 against the J. Percy Page Panthers (7-5) for the women and 69-63 against the M.E. Lazerte Voyageurs (11-2) for the men.
In basketball, Bellerose has never won a senior men’s championship in school history and the last banner for the senior women was 2001 in the city conference.
Division two Spirits
The division two senior women’s final between the Sturgeon Spirits and Harry Ainlay Titans was staged Friday at Jasper Place but the score was unavailable at press time.
Ainlay was 12-0 and the Spirits were 11-1 in league play and the previous result was 38-32 for the Titans on Feb. 12 at Namao.
The No. 6-ranked 3A Spirits posted a 56-49 semifinal decision against the St. Francis Xavier Rams (6-6) Wednesday.