The St. Albert Skyhawks and Bellerose Bulldogs proved they have the ability to hoop it up again in metro Edmonton division two men’s basketball.
The play-in ability round for both teams included Tuesday’s 65-62 win for the Skyhawks against Bellerose at the SkyDome.
“We’re going to keep building on it this season,” said Evan Brassard of the Skyhawks after the team’s first win following two losses in the four-team round robin in the blue pool.
Bellerose and Bev Facey Falcons finished with the same record as the Skyhawks behind the Archbishop Jordan Scotts in pool play for division two status.
The points for/against tiebreaker put Bellerose at plus 12, Facey is minus three and the Skyhawks are minus nine.
Bellerose and Facey remain in division two while ABJ moves up from division three.
Because of the tie-breaker, as well as an extra spot that opened up in division two during pool play, the Skyhawks hosted the Oscar Romero Ravens in Wednesday’s contest to determine who plays in division two or division three and the Skyhawks came through in the clutch at 79-61.
“It was a great game for us. We came out flying and never let up throughout which allowed us to maintain a decent lead during the game,” said Dayn Scaber, the Skyhawks’ new head coach.
In division two last season, the Skyhawks (4-7) placed seventh while Bellerose, Facey and the Ravens missed the playoff cut with 3-8 records.
“We’ve got a lot of new players so we're all learning to play with each other,” said Brassard, a reliable Grade 12 forward and returning Skyhawk. “We have a fast team and a team that works pretty hard and doesn’t give up.”
As for the previous losses in the ability round, including the 69-57 setback to Facey, “They were tight games, we just let them get away,” Brassard said. "Bev Facey just got into our heads. They're a big team and we didn’t play to our strengths of having speed and then against ABJ we just didn’t execute down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
“We’re a good team and we’ll learn from those losses.”
The results for Bellerose in pool play were the 73-58 against Face and 85-65 loss to ABJ.
“Winning against Bev Facey was good for us. It was a good start to the year and a good first game to get warmed up,” said Dorian Therqaj, a flashy Grade 11 shooting guard. “Against ABJ we kind of went in there thinking we're going to beat them really easily. We were kind of too excited so it kind of hit us back and we didn’t play as good as we thought we would. We didn’t grab rebounds and lost a lot of balls, but we’ll do that better in the next game.”
Whenever it's Bellerose versus Skyhawks in high school sports, bragging rights are at an all-time high, even if it's in preseason play like Tuesday’s ability round affair.
“It was a big match. Bellerose is our rival so we wanted to come out and get the W,” Brassard said. “There’s a lot of tension between the two schools so it was good to come out and win.”
From the Bellerose perspective, “It was a good game. Both of us competed well. They had a good player, 22 (Luke Brodeur), and our main goal was to close him up so he couldn't score on us,” Therqaj said. “But at the end of the day they beat us and we did our best.”
Period scores were 12-11, 34-33 and 52-47 for the Skyhawks.
“We slowed down the game a bit and played our game instead of rushing the ball. We also played hard defence and we played to the calls we got,” Brassard said.
The lead switched sides multiple times in the second quarter and after the break the tide turned during an 11-3 Skyhawks' run to make it 50-43.
“The first half we were a bit lackadaisical and then in the second half we picked it up because we wanted that win. Our coach told us in the locker room we're going to get this, this is our rival, so we picked it up and pulled through,” said Brassard, 16.
Talen Eybergen’s basket with 3:37 to play put Bellerose behind the 8-ball down by 11 points. However, a late surge closed the gap considerably.
“In the second half we did our best to keep up,” said Therqaj, noting a big difference in the result was rebounding. “We have to work on that, and we did (in the game), but if we had worked on it faster we could’ve kept up and taken the lead against them and won the game.”
Therqaj, 16, drained 13 of his team-high 21 points in the first half.
"We kind of did badly in the first quarter. We didn’t do as good as we expected to, but second quarter we kind of brought it up," Therqaj said.
Logan Kowaluk's 10 points for Bellerose featured a pair of three-balls and Derian Ward added seven points.
Eybergen was the top-scoring Skyhawk with a game-high four three-pointers and 23 points. Brassard and Joland Garda also tossed in 14 points apiece.
League play tips off Monday at 6:30 p.m. for both teams on their home courts as Bellerose plays ABJ and the Skyhawks take on the Spruce Grove Panthers.
The teams cross paths again Jan. 8 at Bellerose.
The rest of the division two league includes the Paul Kane Blues as they failed to make the leap of faith into division one with a losing record in the ability round while the defending champion Holy Trinity Trojans are now a division one team. The 2019 division two final was 71-69 for Holy Trinity as Paul Kane suffered its first loss after 13 straight wins in league play during a 21-3 season.
In tournament action this weekend, Bellerose is competing at the Rise Up at Sturgeon Composite High School and the first game was Thursday’s loss to Facey. The official score was unavailable from team and tournament officials.
“We're going in it to compete. We want to win games and win tournaments. That’s what we're supposed to do and it’s what we like to do. We also want to have fun and play the game and support Bellerose. It’s the best school in St. Albert,” said Therqaj, a returnee from the 2018/19 lineup that lost 75-67 to the Skyhawks and 80-60 to Paul Kane.
“Last year we had more talent, but this year we have better communication and we're working more as a team than we did last year so that’s why we're playing better and we're improving as we speak at the moment,” said the shifty wide receiver for the Bellerose football team in the division one Carr conference.