Beating the Jasper Place Rebels is still a work in progress for the Paul Kane Blues.
The 2017 4A provincial gold medallists and metro Edmonton division one champions defeated the Blues 73-65 in Saturday’s final at the 20th annual Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier High School.
The Blues had high hopes of repeating as the tournament winners.
“We want to get off to a good start in the season,” said Bronwen Barter, a first-rate wing/guard, after the Blues upended the St. Albert Skyhawks 60-33 in Friday’s semifinal.
“It’s a fresh team and a fresh start. We’re really excited,” Barter added. “It’s the first tournament of the season and we’re ready to get going. We’re ready to fight and win.”
The Rebels were a perfect 35-0 last season with eight Grade 12s on the roster after settling for silver at the 2016 provincials following an undefeated metro division one campaign.
“Jasper Place had a lot of really strong 12s last year and I think this is our year for our strong 12s that have progressed throughout the three years,” said Barter of the six Blues in their last season. “This is really our time to shine and show.”
Eight players are also back from the 2017 semifinalists in league play and the 2-1 team on the championship side of the draw at provincials.
“Jasper Place was our biggest competition last year,” said Barter of the Rebels, 58-51 winners over the Blues in the provincial quarter-finals. “We want to show that we can still compete with them and hopefully get those provincial and city titles.”
The Rebels are going with four Grade 12s and at least six Grade 10s in their quest for a championship repeat.
The final against the Blues was a back and forth affair as the Rebels led by nine after three quarters after trailing by three at the end of the first quarter and 38-37 at halftime.
Rick Stanley, head coach of the Blues, said the team failed to match any intensity and shot poorly in the second half.
Stanley is confident the Blues can and will play better after learning some valuable lessons in their first loss after two wins in the tournament and two lopsided exhibition results.
The Blues faced-off against the Skyhawks after the 107-22 rout of the Luther Lions of Regina in Thursday’s tournament opener.
The outcome was never in doubt with the Blues leading by nine after the first quarter and 15 at halftime. It was 35-16 when the Skyhawks registered their first points of the second half with 6:24 left in the third quarter.
The most compelling rivalry in St. Albert high school sports was a surprisingly ho-hum contest compared to the pair of combustible performances last season in the band box of an outdated Paul Kane gymnasium: 53-49 for the Blues in league play, which was also the first victory by Paul Kane since 2011 against the St. Albert Catholic High School team, and the wild and wacky 57-55 triumph by the Skyhawks in the 4A Edmonton zone three/four playoff in March.
The Blues drained seven three-pointers with Katie Kluttig and Bella Gaulden leading the way with a pair each. Kluttig finished with a team-high 10 points, Jenae John scored all nine of her points in the second half and Barter and Alesha Stanley tacked up eight apiece.
“It was a great effort from both teams,” Barter said. ”Both teams really wanted to win but it just kind of came down to obvious numbers because SACHS lost a lot of players to injuries but also just hustle and the grind and the scrappiness.”
The Blues overpowered the Skyhawks with their impressive bench strength.
“It’s good to have a good starting lineup but it’s also good to have a good second lineup and a third lineup,” said Barter, 17. “The deepness of the bench and the talent is just progression throughout the whole team so I don’t think it’s really five players that run the team it’s the whole team that just works together,”
The Blues are in Victoria this weekend for a tournament and the first game is against Royal Bay on Friday morning.
The Blues are also competing in the 36th annual REB Invitational at Jasper Place and the tournament opener is against the Western Canada Redhawks of Calgary on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m.
At the 2016 REB, the Blues lost 67-49 to the Skyhawks in the consolation bracket.