Knights shock ailing Falcons
Basketball: HTA edges Foothills to win first league title since 2009
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 11:38 pm
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights had just about enough of playing the role of bridesmaid in Senior girls hoops.
Following three seasons as the Foothills Athletic Council (FAC) silver medalists, the Knights climbed back to the top of the podium for the first time since 2009. Holy Trinity Academy (HTA) used a stout defence to upset the favoured Foothills Falcons 51-37, Saturday night at the Foothills gym.
“We’ve won zones in past years, but we really wanted our league championship so this is a big deal,” said Knights Grade 12 guard Kylie Pozniak. “We put it all on the court and finally won this year. I feel on top of the world right now.”
For third-year varsity players and Seniors like Pozniak, Ryan Kennedy and Anya Farmer, the league title eluded the trio despite appearances in the FAC final the previous two years. Paying attention to detail on defence ensured the third time was the charm for the Knights.
“I feel like we worked really hard on defence and that really broke them down,” Pozniak said. “We’ve been watching game film to try and figure out how best to attack them defensively and we did a very good job of that.”
The Knights had the Falcons on their heels in the first half, holding the hosts to just 16 points and carrying a 24-16 lead into halftime on strong play from Kennedy and Grade 10 guard Courtney Dow.
With the Falcons’ primary ball handler Kennedy Burgess limited to a couple minutes on the court due to a rolled ankle, Foothills relied on the shooting of Mariah Hoare and Jenna Thomson.
HTA kept up the pressure to start the second half and built a 31-16 lead after Kennedy buried a beautiful skyhook over a pair of Falcon defenders.
After Pozniak and Falcon Maddi Turbach butted heads, with the latter taking the worst of it and being forced to leave the game with a nasty cut on her brow, the Falcons closed the quarter on a 9-2 run. Hoare and Caitlin Dales hit consecutive shots from behind the arc to narrow the gap to 33-27 going into the final quarter.
After a nice play fake led to an easy basket for Jessica Lynes and a jumper from Hoare, the Falcons were within five points at 38-33 with 4:20 left on the clock.
It would be as close as Foothills would get. Pozniak drained consecutive three-pointers in 20 seconds to give the Knights the double-digit lead they would not relinquish.
“My dad’s been begging me to shoot threes more and I’m a pretty good three-point shooter, I just don’t shoot them so much,” Pozniak said. “Today I was feeling it.”
Pozniak finished with 16 points, second only to Knights leading scorer Ryan Kennedy. Hoare and Lynes registered a Falcons-high nine points each.
First-year Knights head coach Ashley Herzog said her veterans made all the difference in a league final featuring a full complement of HTA players for the first time in weeks.
“We’ve been riddled with injuries as of late and we’ve had some off the bench players step up,” Herzog said. “It was nice to get them into their regular rhythm and into their chemistry so the win goes to those three: Kylie, Ryan and Charissa (Hielema), for sure.”
Despite losing both of the regular season meetings to the Falcons, the Knights brought momentum into the final after getting by the Strathmore Spartans 53-46 in a competitive semifinal the night prior.
“We had a good play in game and I think that helped our confidence,” Herzog said. “The Falcons beat Oilfields by 30. It wasn’t a high pressure game.”
The Knights coach also expressed empathy for her Foothills counterpart Lana Gwilliam due to the absence of Burgess for most of the contest.
“I feel for Lana without Kennedy out there. I know that she needs her ball handler and shooter and I know how that feels,” said Herzog, who was without Pozniak and Hielema in the previous meeting between the schools. “It sucks for her that it was during the league finals.”
Gwilliam’s options on the bench were severely hampered in the final. Without Burgess, the coach also had to limit the minutes of Kalli Turbach due to a torn-ACL. The injury to Maddi Turbach and Thomson’s fouling out only compounded matters for the Falcons.
“Our girls that were on our bench stepped up and played hard and worked hard the whole game,” Gwilliam said. “In all honesty, zones is where it’s at and we would definitely rather win zones and head to provincials so I limited (Kalli’s) minutes to a few minutes and when her twin sister Maddi went out she wanted to go back in, but it’s not worth risking anything for.”
For the Falcons, the focus remains on a South Central Zone title and another ticket to the 4A provincials, March 14-16 in Calgary. Gwilliam is hopeful her players can rebound quickly from the defeat.
“I know for the girls that are hurt and it hurts more to lose because they’re on the bench and there’s not much they can do,” Gwilliam said. “I told them all to focus on zones. That’s what’s going to get us places so I sure hope we can come out strong this week and play hard.”
The Falcons will now square off with the George McDougall Mustangs in a best-of-three series to determine the 4A South Central Zone champion. The first game of the series is tonight, March 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the Falcons gym. Game 2 is Friday at George McDougall in Airdrie at 6 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 would be on Saturday at Foothills with a 2 p.m. tip-off.
Elsewhere, the Knights are at Chestermere High on Thursday in their 3A South Central Zone opener against Bow Valley at 6 p.m. The winner of the contest plays the host Chestermere Lakers on Friday.