Wednesday’s league opener for the Paul Kane Blues in division one women’s basketball was a tale of two halfs.
Paul Kane trailed by 13 points at the break before losing by 33 to the Jasper Place Rebels.
“We had a better first half as a team just for intensity and our heads were in the game a bit more. We also made a few mistakes that shouldn’t have happened,” said point guard Liz Salcedo after the 83-50 result at Paul Kane.
Three-pointers by Chelsea Marko, Jules Froment, Raeesa Cherniwchan and Salcedo in the opening 10 minutes put Paul Kane on top at 21-19 at quarter time.
In the next quarter, the Rebels scored in bunches while Paul Kane was unable to generate any point runs to keep up with the visitors.
It was 34-26 Rebels when Cherniwchan wired her second three-point of the half with about three minutes left until the break.
The Rebels replied with 10 consecutive points before Kayleena Garda’s basket closed out the first half with Paul Kane facing a 44-31 disadvantage.
“We started very strong and we kept the tempo with them very, very well and then in the second quarter we started to lose a bit of intensity which caused them to go on a run,” Salcedo said.
The Rebels cranked it up in the third quarter by outscoring Paul Kane 16-9 to lead by 20.
“If we could’ve kept up with them for a longer time, we would’ve decreased the end gap a little bit more,” Salcedo said.
The Rebels grew stronger as the game progressed.
“In the first half we were a little rough, kind of out of control, and then in the second half we got more control and played with pace. We also used our transition to our advantage,” said Jenna Rinsky, Grade 12 point guard who tossed in 16 of her 22 points in the first half.
Dani Nadeau of the Rebels led all scorers with 23 points and Kaylee Plouffe popped in 10 for the winners.
The scores between the two teams last season were 67-59 for the Rebels in the first league game, 67-66 in overtime for the Blues in the semifinal of the Paul Kane Invitational and 66-63 for the Rebels in the division one semifinal.
“We played them last year and they were really good, so we came in with a mindset of just playing hard and playing our game basically,” said Rinsky, one of 12 returnees, including six-foot-two Haley Fedick, who sat out her Grade 11 season with a lower-body injury, on the 14-player player roster.
The current lineup includes two Grade 10s.
“There is a lot more experience for us this year in knowing how to do things better,” Rinsky said. “There is not as many people coming in not knowing how to play high school ball since high school is such a different change from junior high.”
As for the team’s strengths, “We have a really hard-working defensive team and we have a lot of length so our defence is going to drive us this season. The bigs will also help on offence playing an in and out game,” said Rinsky, a U17 Team Alberta player along with Nadeau and Fedick with the 2019 silver medallists at nationals.
The Rebels are coming off 24-9 season with no Grade 12s, eight Grade 11s and four Grade 10s in the lineup.
Among the losses were 69-49 in the division one final and 73-41 in the 4A provincial semifinal against the St. Albert Skyhawks, 30-5 overall as the 4A provincial gold medallists.
The Skyhawks are also winners of 28 consecutive games, including 22 in a row to wrap up last season’s championship run, and the team’s last loss was 66-52 to the Rebels a year ago in the third-place game at at the REB Invitational at Jasper Place.
This year, the Skyhawks and Rebels are on opposite sides of the eight-team draw at the 38th annual REB Invitational and depending on Friday’s semifinal results (scores were unavailable at press time) the odds are high they will battle in tonight’s 6 p.m. final.
“There is lots of competition between us. It’s always a fun game against them,” said Rinsky, who conceded, “There is a lot of motivation just to come back and play our game and go harder than we did last year,” when the Rebels play the Skyhawks this season.
Paul Kane will be in the mix with the Skyhawks and Rebels with six players back for the sixth-place team at the 4A provincials. The 20-11 overall record includes the 9-3 mark as a division one semifinalist.
“We’ve had a very good season so far (4-3 overall). We’ve come out really, really strong, especially since we have such a young team, so we're doing really well and we're only looking up from here,” said Salcedo, one of five Grade 10s among the six newcomers on the senior team.
The graduate of the 2019 Richard S. Fowler Falcons, 22-0 as the St. Albert Physical Education Council Tier I junior high champions, has logged valuable minutes in the starting rotation as a spirited contributor at both ends of the floor.
“Stepping in as a starting point guard is kind of intimidating but it’s a very good chance for development for myself. I also have some big shoes to fill as Bella (Gaulden, a Grade 12 scoring threat at guard) is out with an injury,” Salcedo said. “I’m looking forward to growing with this team this year."
Salcedo, 16, tacked up 11 points against the Rebels on the strength of a pair of two three-balls.
Cherniwchan finished with 10 points and Froment dropped in three three-pointers.
The next Paul Kane game is Monday at home against the St. Peter the Apostle Spartans of Spruce Grove at 5:30 p.m.