The St. Albert Skyhawks are ushering in a new era for the high school women’s basketball team with six newcomers replacing four graduates from the 4A provincial consolation champions.
“We’ve got a lot of Team Alberta players and former Team Alberta players so that definitely helps,” said Brooke Froment, a Grade 11 Skyhawk. “We’re competitive and everyone has a big heart.”
Abby Morrison, a third-year Skyhawk who played for Alberta at the 2017 Canada Summer Games, and Nicole Dea, a first-year full-time senior team member, are the only Grade 12s on the roster.
Overall, four players remain from the metro Edmonton division one semifinalists.
“There is a lot of leadership coming from the older kids just because the young girls haven’t played at this tempo before. They’ve got to learn to do that and they’re doing well. All of them are playing really well and learning new stuff and improving every game,” Froment said.
Unfortunately, the Skyhawks have already lost two returnees to injuries and are down to 10 players for the rest of the season.
Bella Cuciz, a robust Grade 11, is recovering from ACL replacement surgery in early November and is working hard towards recovery while serving as the team manager.
Kenzie Thera, a Grade 11 guard, was informed the severity of her ACL/meniscus tear suffered in the first quarter of the 2016 Totem Hoop Classic final against the Jasper Place Rebels would create long term issues with the knee as a young adult if she continued playing basketball.
Thera broke the news to the Skyhawks in a lengthy and tear-filled post-game team meeting after Friday’s 60-33 loss to the Paul Kane Blues in the semifinal of the 20th annual Mike Dea Classic hosted by St. Francis Xavier High School.
Morrison also sat out the tournament with an undisclosed injury but is expected back in the lineup before the Christmas break. The Skyhawks missed Morrison’s voice and presence on the floor as a standout playmaking guard.
“We also have a couple that are playing through injuries so that’s good they’re toughening it out but let’s hope it doesn’t end up like last year where we had seven players. That was a grind,” Froment said of the injury-riddled Skyhawks that included head coach John Dedrick’s wobbly knees.
To put it in perspective, Paul Kane had more coaches on the bench Friday than the Skyhawks had substitutes last season.
Despite the lack of bodies, the Skyhawks persevered through adversity to win the consolation final for fifth place as the No. 7 seed at the 16-team provincials. The team’s 3-1 record included a double overtime four-point decision against the No. 11 Spruce Grove Panthers in the consolation semifinals.
“We did have a good year. We had four Grade 12s and they were all good leaders. I loved them all and couldn’t ask for better people to experience my first year with. They really helped and showed us how to play in high school and I hope we can do that for our younger girls this year,” Froment said.
The Skyhawks finished their season-opening tournament at the Mike Dea Classic in fourth place with a 2-2 record after Saturday’s 57-55 loss to the Leboldus Golden Suns.
The Skyhawks had a chance to knot the score when Grade 10 guard Kamryn DeKlerk was fouled with 1.9 seconds left. DeKlerk missed the first attempt and Dedrick instructed the Rollyview resident to miss the second free throw, which she did, and Grade 10 forward Tea Demong grabbed the rebound and quickly released a short little bunny shot which sat on the rim and rolled off.
The Skyhawks deployed three Grade 10s on the floor in crunch time and did a lot of good things against Leboldus, one of the better teams in Regina and Saskatchewan in general who are similar in nature with a young roster like the St. Albert Catholic High School squad.
Demong led the Skyhawks in scoring and was named a tournament all-star.
Demong moved from Hinton to play for the Skyhawks and was a teammate of DeKlerk and Kayleena Garda of Paul Kane on U15 Team Alberta.
Demong, who was selected to participate in the Canadian national cadet team tryout camp in mid-December, also played with DeKlerk on the U of A Prairie Elite Basketball League U15 team and in the fall they did Targeted Athlete Strategies, featuring top provincial players in their age group, along with Grade 10 post Mimi Sigue, a junior high product of the Vincent J. Maloney Marauders.
In the semifinals, Demong tossed in a team-high 11 points against Paul Kane as the Skyhawks trailed 14-5 after the first quarter, 31-16 at halftime and 45-26 entering the fourth quarter.
It was 21-13 Paul Kane when the Skyhawks called a timeout with 4:06 to go in the first half.
“We played hard. We played with them for a while. They’re a tough team. They’re good. They’re going to be one of the top teams in the province,” said Froment, a shooting guard who sank a three-pointer early in the match and her field goal near the end of the third quarter left the Skyhawks down 43-24.
Moving forward, the Skyhawks will sharpen their skills at both ends of the floor while meshing together as unit.
“We’re going to have to work on defence hard to let our offence set up and get going a little,” said Froment, 16, who lives in Morinville. “We also have to work hard in practice and that will come into the game more because obviously the young girls haven’t played at this tempo before so showing that in practice is going to definitely help in a game and get those baby steps where they need to be.”
FREE THROWS: The Skyhawks are competing against at the Totem Hoop Classic and Thursday’s tip-off against the Archbishop MacDonald Marauders is 4:30 p.m. at Ross Sheppard High School.
Friday the Skyhawks will face Spruce Grove or the Strathcona Lords at 4:30 p.m. in the semifinals or 2:30 p.m. in the consolation bracket of the eight-team draw.
The Skyhawks and Paul Kane are also on the same side of the draw at the 36th annual REB tournament. The first game for the Skyhawks is against the JW North Huskies of Riverside, California on Dec. 14 at 8 p.m.