St. Joseph High School – The St. Albert Skyhawks continue to kick butt and take names as the reigning heavyweight champions in provincial high school women’s basketball.
The latest punishing knockout by the 22-1 Skyhawks was Saturday’s 86-39 unanimous decision against the Philles Girls of Marburg, Germany, at the 37th annual Father Michael Troy Basketball Classic.
The final was a boisterous floor-crashing and body-slamming affair as the Skyhawks matched Marburg’s tenacity with gusto.
“It was definitely physical. Everybody was crashing hard,” said Dakota Wedman, a tournament all-star for the Skyhawks. “We just needed to focus on what we were trying to do and adapting to what they were doing to us.”
The Skyhawks battled hard in posting period leads of 23-15, 47-25 and 63-30.
“It was tough and it was exciting,” said Morgan Harris, the tournament MVP. “We didn’t know anything about this team so it’s nice to have new competition and somebody else to play.”
Marburg head coach Jenny Unger was impressed by the Skyhawks.
“St. Albert is a very good team. They pressed hard and we had too many turnovers,” Unger said. “They play really smart on offence and defence, they know where the next pass is going and they fought hard grabbing rebounds.”
The loss of a key player for Marburg early in the first half with a shoulder injury played somewhat a role in the team’s loss.
“We started even and then I lost my best player and that affected us, especially on rebounds because she is a big girl and she can rebound,” Unger said.
When told the Skyhawks were the defending 4A provincial champions and the team to beat again this season, Unger replied: “I know. I heard that."
“I’m pretty sure there are some teams like St. Albert in Germany when you compete for the German championship,” she said.
The Skyhawks exerted their will on Marburg during a game-altering 10-3 run with under four minutes left in the first quarter as Harris poured in a three-pointer, Rory Vandermeer deposited an offensive rebound, Mimi Sigue was the finisher off a slick bounce pass by Teå DeMong, Sigue pulled off a big block, Annacy Palmer converted one of two free throws and DeMong cashed in her own steal to close out the 10-minute period.
In the second quarter, the Skyhawks cranked it up several notches while outscoring Marburg 16-5 before the halfway mark of the period and that was pretty much the ball game.
The 24-10 onslaught by the Skyhawks in the quarter was triggered by Palmer’s field goal and three-pointer in the opening minute as seven players tacked up points.
“It definitely was one of our better games. Everyone was passing to everyone. We were finding each other. Our boards were especially good. We were finishing everywhere,” Harris said.
As the final quickly turned into a rout, Marburg’s frustration with the Skyhawks and the officiating was evident in the body language, facial expressions and vocal reaction of the players on the floor and on the bench.
Ironically, the majority of spectators were hooting and hollering for Marburg as the Skyhawks were unquestionably public enemy No. 1.
“It's hard on us. It made making mistakes a lot harder because they go crazy, but it also gives us adrenaline. We want to work harder and we want our fans to cheer even louder for us,” Wedman said.
There are strong ties between Marburg and St. Joes as the Germans were competing in their 10th Troy Classic in 20 years.
“These kids work two years to fundraise for the trip and then we usually play two tournaments. We played in another tournament in Calgary and now here,” Unger said. “We love St. Joes because it's well organized, the people are so friendly and it's always a great tournament."
The touring team from Marburg, a German town north of Frankfort, consisted of 16 players: seven Grade 10s, three Grade 11s and six Grade 12s.
“We don’t really have high school basketball in Germany so it's kind of the club teams out of two schools,” Unger said. “As a team we have different strengths. We can shoot the ball, we can drive and the girls can hustle hard.”
The latest winning performance by the Skyhawks also showed they have very few if any flaws in their game with one tournament remaining and three league games left before the metro Edmonton division one playoffs start March 2 for the two-time defending champions.
“We’re going in knowing that everybody’s coming at us. We have a target on our back and we need to push through and work through the adversity,” said Harris.
The Grade 11 guard and the smallest Skyhawk at five-foot-four tallied 12 points in the final, including two three-pointers.
Harris also escaped an injury crashing into the end wall of the gym when she was chopped down from behind on a breakaway layup attempt after stealing the ball 10 seconds into the fourth quarter. The offending player was penalized on the play and Harris hit both free throws.
Less than a minute later, Wedman got away with a foul after taking down an opponent around mid-court that left the Marburg players and supporters voicing their displeasure in the same tone the Skyhawks' fans uttered over the foul on Harris.
Harris, 16, also drained four three-balls and 19 points in total in the 102-44 semifinal blowout of the St. Francis Xavier Rams and 11 points in the 115-36 clubbing of the Archbishop Jordan Scots in the tournament opener.
As for being recognized as the top player at the Troy Classic, “It's exciting,” Harris said. “Actually, it just feels weird.”
Wedman, 16, was a deserving choice for tournament all-star status with 14 points in the final and her 10 points in the first half were off tough plays in the paint.
“It was a lot of watching the ball and seeing everyone reacting and definitely a lot of physicality, like pushing back and coming out of my comfort zone a lot,” said the Grade 11 guard/forward, who has seen a spike in floor time with Grade 12 guard Kamryn DeKlerk recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the first game of the St. Mary’s Saints Senior Classic the previous weekend in Calgary.
DeMong tied Wedman for the lead in points against Marburg with 14, Palmer finished with 13 and Sigue picked up 12 while giving the Germans fits with her dominating post play.
The results at the Troy Classic marked the fourth undefeated weekend in five competitions this season as the Skyhawks improved to 14-1 in tournament action.
“We started off kind of slow with teams that weren’t quite at our level and we kept building up to this game which is what we wanted out of this tournament so it was good that way for us,” Wedman said.
The St. Mary’s tournament brought out the very best in the Skyhawks against top-10 ranked 4A teams and the scores were 87-52 against the No. 4 Raymond Comets, 91-66 against the No. 1 Western Canada Redhawks and 80-47 against No. 10 St. Mary’s in the final.
“It was way tougher. Everything about it was scrappy and physical. This wasn't as high of a level,” said Harris, who attended Millwoods Christian School in Grade 9.
The victory against Western was extra special after the Skyhawks lost 76-68 to the Redhawks in the Dec. 13 semifinal of the REB Invitational at Jasper Place. The outcome dropped the Skyhawks into the No. 2 slot behind Western in the first 4A rankings of the season. The next rankings will be released Friday.
“That game was a lot about us coming back and definitely revenge too in showing them what that game should’ve been the first time. It was all about working hard and working together and we definitely pulled through in that one, “ said Wedman, who played her junior high basketball at Covenant Christian School in Leduc.
The next division one game for the Skyhawks (8-0) is against the Harry Ainlay Titans (3-5) today at 5:30 p.m.
This weekend is the No Frills tournament at Jasper Place and the Skyhawks are scheduled to play Friday against Centennial of Calgary at 7:45p.m. and Saturday against Lindsay Thurber of Red Deer at 11:45 a.m. and Medicine Hat at 3:15 p.m.