SFX High School – Here’s a scary thought: The St. Albert Skyhawks are potentially more powerful than the superior squad that finished 30-5 as the 2019 4A provincial champions in high school women’s basketball.
The Skyhawks showcased how exceptional they really are in Saturday’s shock and awe 111-34 pummelling of the Paul Kane Blues in the final of the 22nd annual Mike Dea Classic.
“We take pride in the fact that we won last year and we don’t want to give that up easily. We want to defend our championship and we’re back to defend it. It gives us a lot of motivation to keep going,” said Kamryn DeKlerk, a top-notch Grade 12 guard and the tournament MVP. “It’s really special to be part of something like this as the defending champions and it’s also rare to get the chance to be here in this position. We’ve got a huge target on our backs so we have to rise to the occasion every single game."
In the season-opening tournament, the Skyhawks tore apart the St. Peter the Apostle Spartans of Spruce Grove 106-28 and pounded the O’Leary Spartans 84-32 before whipping Paul Kane by 77 points with a lineup of eight returnees and three Grade 10s.
The roster is loaded with eight 2019 Team Alberta players – DeKlerk, Teå DeMong, Morgan Harris, Annacy Palmer and Mimi Sigue in U17, Maty Drefs and Dakota Wedman in U16 and Maya Flindall in U15 – and the three Grade 12s, DeKlerk, DeMong and Sigue, contributed to the Skyhawks winning bronze at the 2017 4A provincials.
The convincing results at the MIke Dea Classic also extended the Skyhawks’ undefeated streak to 25 games that included 22 in a row last season as the repeat winners of the metro Edmonton division one championship while going 13-0 in league play.
The Skyhawks haven’t suffered a setback since Dec. 15, 66-52 to the Jasper Place Rebels in the third-place game at the 2019 REB Invitational.
“Last year, obviously we were the best in the province and this year we want to be better because everybody wants to be better than we were last year,” DeKlerk said. “We’ve made some big improvements and for sure we’re going to miss our (three) seniors from last year, but we work hard every single practice and every single game and there is no reason why we can’t be better.”
In the latest St. Albert rivalry game, the Skyhawks piled up the points at a fast and furious pace and a good chunk were scored off turnovers as Paul Kane struggled mightily against a stifling defence.
The final was done like dinner during a 20-1 run to start the second quarter before Raeesa Cherniwchan’s basket with 4:32 to go before the break left Paul Kane trailing by 29 points.
The first half ended with Izzy Valerio’s three-pointer to make it 50-15.
“We were expecting a really good game so that’s why we came out so hard. We really had to push right away because they’re not going to give us anything easy,” DeKlerk said. “They fought the whole time so credit to them.”
The onslaught continued as the Skyhawks outscored Paul Kane 33-8 in the third quarter to lead by 60.
The Skyhawks kept going like gangbusters as Palmer’s second three-pointer pushed the score to 90-26 with 6:31 to play. Palmer, the leading scorer in the final with 20 points, suffered a lower-body injury after the play and struggled to put weight on her right foot during the post-game awards ceremony.
The Skyhawks hit triple digits on Flindall’s bank shot to finish off a pass by DeKlerk after DeMong caused a turnover to create the two-on-one break to go up 100-32 with 3:27 to go.
Fans were treated to a dazzling passing performance as the Skyhawks were slinging the ball around the court like the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Our passes were pretty incredible. We’re a very unselfish team. We want to share the ball, we want to get everyone involved and that really showed tonight and I was really proud how we moved the ball. We really got a lot of ball movement going which is hard to guard against,” said DeKlerk, 17, who racked up a ton of assists in addition to pumping in 16 points, including two-three balls.
Sigue was dominant in the low post while producing 17 points, DeMong sank 13, Drefs netted 12 and Harris added 10.
Harris, a tournament all-star, and Drefs chipped in with two three-pointers apiece as the Skyhawks finished with nine in total.
The victory was the third against Paul Kane after the 79-75 double overtime loss to the Blues in the semifinal of the REB Invitational (the Skyhawks were missing DeMong, Harris and Palmer that weekend because of commitments to the women’s national age-group assessment camps in Toronto).
The 38th annual REB Invitational starts Dec. 14 for the Skyhawks.
The Skyhawks also beat the Blues 84-40 in the final of the Paul Kane Invitational in January and 69-33 in league play in February.
Paul Kane is certainly no slouch with six players back from the sixth-place team at the 2019 4A provincials, but against the Skyhawks the Blues were without the services of Grade 12 scoring threat Bella Gaulden because of a lower-body injury and head coach Rick Stanley was unavailable for the final.
“We came out and it took us a while to get our stride because we had lost one of our starters. It’s hard to play without her, but we did our best,” said Jules Froment, a returnee from the 20-11 team that finished 9-3 as the metro Edmonton division one semifinalist.
Paul Kane never threw in the towel despite the big disadvantage on the scoreboard right from the get-go as the Skyhawks led 12-0 before Liz Salcedo, a spunky Grade 10 guard with multiple points in the loss, nailed two free throws with 3:50 left in the first period that ended with the Blues down 19-7.
“It’s tough to bounce back from such a big gap,” Froment said. “But we have great team unity so we all kept together and stayed positive. We kept on saying, ‘We got this guys. Don’t give up. Play your best.’”
Cherniwchan's team-high 13 points featured a three-pointer in the last quarter that left Paul Kane trailing 92-31.
In Friday's 58-46 semifinal against the Strathcona Lords, Paul Kane led 31-17 at halftime before going up by 22 points in the third quarter. The Lords made a run toward the end of the quarter and early in the fourth before Paul Kane buckled down.
Paul Kane also dug deep after Gaulden's injury and a timeout was needed for the players to check their emotions. Gaulden tossed in 20 points before her injury.
Gaulden and Aislinn Libich, a former Skyhawk, were named tournament all-stars.
“That game was a tough one. They’re physical and we had to work our hardest and play really hard,” said Froment, a Grade 11 guard/forward who tacked up 12 points against the Lords. “We stayed tighter as a team and we stayed positive the entire game.”
Salcedo contributed eight points and Bailey Guppy added six.
Paul Kane’s 2-1 tournament record included the 50-34 outcome against the Leduc Tigers as the Blues opened the season with six newcomers and four Grade 12s.
“We’re super young. We have five Grade 10s and they’re doing great,” said Froment, 16.
The next tournament is the 24th annual Totem Hoop Classic at Ross Sheppard High School and the first game is 12:30 p.m. Thursday against the Spruce Grove Panthers. The result will determine Fridays’ game for Paul Kane against the Bishop Grandin Ghosts of Calgary or the Calgary All Saints at 4:30 p.m. in the semifinals or 2:30 p.m. in the consolation bracket.
As for Paul Kane refocusing on the Totem Classic after falling to the Skyhawks, “We need to work on our fast break,” Froment said. “We’ve just got to work hard in practice.”