Jasper Place – The St. Albert Skyhawks did it again.
The second triumph in 11 days against the Jasper Place Rebels also confirmed the first time was the real deal when the Skyhawks knocked off the two-time defending metro Edmonton division one champions and 2017 4A provincial gold medallists.
“A lot of people were surprised to see us beat them and a lot of people didn’t think it would happen again but we knew in our hearts if we could play the same basketball we played that day that we could come out with another win and today we proved that,” declared captain Abby Morrison after the stunning 68-58 division one final Saturday. “I don’t think anyone at the beginning of the season pictured us being here winning a city championship and it feels amazing.”
The will to win for the superior Skyhawks was on par with the 68-59 conquest of the Rebels at the SkyDome in the second-last league game before the playoffs.
“That was no fluke,” stated Teá DeMong, the top player in the rematch with a game-altering three three-pointers during a 17-point outburst in the third quarter as the Skyhawks outscored the Rebels 21-5 to lead by 12 entering the last 10-minute period.
“We went into this knowing that it was possible and we knew we had to give it everything we had and we did,” DeMong added. “It’s a huge win.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com for the team’s championship banner picture.
The Skyhawks are 26-6 and the Rebels are 28-4 when the 4A provincials tip-off March 15 at Medicine Hat.
“This win definitely helps us,” DeMong said.
The Skyhawks and Rebels are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, as the metro Edmonton zone teams at provincials and they will be joined by the No. 3 Paul Kane Blues and No. 4 Leduc Tigers in the 16-team tournament.
The third Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association rankings of the season were released Friday and the Rebels dropped from first to second as the Bishop Carroll Cardinals of Calgary took over top spot, the Skyhawks moved up to eighth from 10th, Paul Kane slipped from fourth to fifth and Leduc remains an honourable mention.
“For us it stings a little. We want to get our ranking up higher. We think we’ve started to prove ourselves that we should be a higher ranked team going into provincials and hopefully this does that for us and hopefully going into provincials we can carry the same way that we’ve been playing our last few games in our league to provincials and maybe we’ll come home with another banner,” Morrison said.
Last month, the Skyhawks clipped the Cardinals 54-50 in the consolation bracket of the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Green and Gold and Bishop Carroll was ranked No. 3 at the time.
The Skyhawks soar into provincials oozing with confidence as winners of five in a row after losing 55-51 to Paul Kane on Feb. 12 at the SkyDome.
“This was the best game of the season,” said DeMong of the third tilt of the season against the Rebels as Jasper Place subdued a gritty lineup of eight Skyhawks 59-54 after leading by as much as 20 in the Jan. 13 semifinal of the Paul Kane Classic.
“We both gave it our all today. Every minute it was hard intensity from both ends. We had a few dull moments but they didn’t last long. We had good bench energy and good flow energy. We were always picking each other up. We did have a lot of fouls but we kept working through it,” DeMong said. “We basically came through in the clutch when we needed to.”
After the first quarter ended 14-13 for the Rebels the lead switched sides several times prior to halftime as the Skyhawks trailed 32-28 at the break.
Sarah Rinsky and Sydney Fedick, a pair of stellar Grade 12 Rebels, registered 11 points apiece in the first half. Rinsky finished with 22 points and Fedick had 18 overall for a team that was missing highly-regarded Grade 10 starter Haley Fedick with a lower body injury.
It was 34-30 two minutes into the third quarter when DeMong took grabbed the game by the throat with three-straight jumpers to trigger an 18-point run before Rinsky’s basket left the Rebels trailing 46-36 with about a minute left until quarter time.
“We just didn’t have any quit in us today,” Morrison said. “When we were down we were like, ‘No we’re going to get it back. This isn’t the end of the game for us.’”
The last nine points in the quarter by the Skyhawks were back-breaking threes by the razor-sharp DeMong.
“She was shooting the ball well so after her first three (to make it 43-34 with 1:47 left in the quarter) I was thinking, ‘How do we get Teá another shot?’ so we ran our play for her to get a three and she hit it again and the gym went crazy for her,” said Morrison of DeMong’s second three from basically the same spot on the floor with 1:15 to go to drop the Rebels further behind at 46-34.
DeMong’s third three-pointer of the quarter was a boomer from in front of the Skyhawks’ bench after the Grade 10 standout retrieved a loose ball from the second free-throw miss by Aine Murphy and quickly went behind the three-point line for the shot that hit nothing but net to pad the lead to 49-36 with 47 seconds to play in the quarter.
DeMong’s fourth three-pointer of the game with 8:09 remaining left the Rebels staring at a mighty 54-39 deficit.
Overall, DeMong drained 20 of her game-high 24 points in the second half.
“They were playing locked down defence so when I was open I just let it fly. I knew that’s what we needed to do to win the game,” said DeMong, 15, who played her junior high basketball in Hinton.
In the fourth quarter, the Skyhawks converted 10 free throws as Morrison and Kamryn DeKlerk tallied four apiece.
With 2:37 left in the final and the Skyhawks up 61-54 after a Rinsky three-pointer, DeKlerk hit her first free throw and the second attempt was off the mark but Mimi Sigue latched onto the rebound and deposited it through the hoop to seal the deal.
Sigue, a powerful post, was battling foul problems while spending most of her floor time covering Fedick and the Grade 10 Skyhawk did an admirable job against one of the very best players in the metro league while contributing eight points to the cause.
DeKlerk also added 12 points as the Skyhawks rattled the Rebels in their sacred home gym.
“Definitely it was something to be nervous about coming into their home gym with their home crowd energy but we also had good support from our home crowd today as well and we felt it,” said Morrison, 17, a Grade 12 guard and one of four Skyhawks from the 2017 division semifinalists and 4A consolation championship team.
The seventh final in nine years was a major milestone as the Skyhawks celebrated their first division one championship as a 4A team. This is the fifth 4A season for the Skyhawks after a record-breaking four consecutive 3A provincial banners and in 2014 they were 4A bronze medallists.
It was also the first division one final for the Skyhawks since the 61-53 loss to the Rebels in 2016 that marked the third-straight second-place playoff finish for the St. Albert Catholic High School senior women’s program that won premier (now division one) banners in 2010, 2012 and 2013.