SFX Sports Centre – Losing is not an option for the powerhouse St. Albert Skyhawks.
The women’s basketball team at St. Albert Catholic High School tipped off defence of its 4A provincial championship as the back-to-back metro Edmonton division one playoff winner with a talent-laden lineup led by eight returnees from the 30-5 juggernauts that ended last season with 22 consecutive victories.
The last loss for the Skyhawks was 66-52 to the Jasper Place Rebels in the Dec. 15 third-place game at the REB Invitational at Jasper Place.
“Every practice and every game we try and push ourselves harder because after last year we know we’re going to have a target on our back,” said Mimi Sigue, one of the many standouts on the Skyhawks, on the high expectations of repeating. “Of course there’s pressure on us. We won cities two years in a row and we’re the provincial champs from last year so everyone wants to beat us every game and we’ve just got to bring the intensity.”
The season opener for the Skyhawks was Thursday’s 106-28 bombardment of the St. Peter the Apostle Spartans of Spruce Grove at the 22nd annual Mike Dea Classic.
Friday’s semifinal against the O’Leary Spartans was unavailable at press time.
Depending on the result, the Skyhawks play today at 2 p.m. in the third-place game or the 6 p.m. final at St. Francis Xavier High School.
Last season in division two, O’Leary (12-1) beat Spartans (11-2) in the final and both teams have moved up into the 12-team division one league.
The Skyhawks (13-0) will be challenged by the Rebels (11-2) and Paul Kane Blues (9-3) in their quest for a playoff three-peat.
At the 4A provincials, the Rebels and Paul Kane finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 16-team draw while the Skyhawks pulled off an exhilarating 66-65 takedown of the Bishop Carroll Cardinals of Calgary in the March 16 gold-medal game at Jasper Place.
The historic championship was the first by a St. Albert women’s basketball team at 4A provincials.
It also cemented the 2018/19 Skyhawks’ status as greatest high school women’s basketball team ever assembled in St. Albert in year six at the 4A level after racking up four consecutive 3A provincial champions.
“Sometimes we talk about it, but we’ve also got to think about the future and can we do that again. That’s more of our mentality,” said Sigue, the heroine of the provincial final with two heart-stopping free throws with 25.4 seconds remaining to close out the scoring.
“Of course I’m never going to forget that. That was amazing,” said Sigue, who made the front page of the Gazette four days later and the picture was the pivotal play that set up the free throws as the six-foot-one post was fouled by Yvonne Ejim, the star player on the Cardinals, with the Skyhawks down by one.
“Some days I’m thinking about that when I’m missing my free throws at practice,” Sigue said of the signature moment of her career. “I remind myself I’ve got to keep working at it because you don’t know if you’re going to have that opportunity to do it again.”
Sigue, 17, sharpshooter Teá DeMong and playmaker extraordinaire Kamryn DeKlerk are the only Grade 12s on the 11-player roster.
The trio are also among six Skyhawks who competed on the U17 and U16 provincial teams in August.
“We want to try and leave our mark as seniors. We also want to leave a big impression as a team and hopefully win cities three times in a row and win provincials again too,” said Sigue, who is committed to the Victoria Vikes next season.
There is no shortage of prime-time expertise on the Skyhawks to share with the team’s newcomers: Maya Flindall, a U15 Team Alberta player, Abbey Kornak and Rory Vandermeer and all three are graduates of the 2019 Richard S. Fowler Falcons, 22-0 as the St. Albert Physical Education Council Tier I junior high champions.
“That experience we have is really important because it helps us teach the rookies the type of game that we want to play,” Sigue said. “It’s also good for them to have good competition at practice every day and when they come to a game it’s like nothing new for them.”
Wednesday’s curtain raiser for the Skyhawks was a dress rehearsal as the provincial champions made the Spartans looked like a junior high team.
So overwhelming were the Skyhawks that the volunteer students at the score table were unprepared to keep up with the parade of points so the stat sheet was a shambles.
However, it was crystal clear that every Skyhawk scored with DeMong and Morgan Harris leading the way.
The first half ended at 61-17 with Sigue’s offensive rebound as the Skyhawks outscored the Spartans 35-4 in the second quarter.
After the break, the Skyhawks piled up 16 consecutive points before the Spartans replied with 3:19 left in the third quarter.
The last 10-minute period started with the Skyhawks in front by 86-19. As the game wound down, Flindall drained the ball three times to get the Skyhawks to within two of triple digits before DeMong finished off a slick pass into the paint by Annacy Palmer by tossing the ball high into the air from basically underneath the hoop and it dropped through perfectly to make it 100-25 with 3:36 to play.
“When we’re playing in like not so hard games it’s tough sometimes to keep the intensity up so we try to do that as well as run set plays that we work on in practice so we’re prepared for those harder games,” Sigue said.