Falcons flying into league playoffs
Basketball: Foothills’ Kennedy Burgess scores 30 in win over HTA
Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 06:00 am
The Foothills Falcons are starting to soar at just the right time.
The Falcons clinched the top spot in the Foothills Athletic Council Senior girls regular season with a 71-59 win over their cross-town rivals the Holy Trinity Academy Knights Feb. 26 at HTA.
It was Falcon point Kennedy Burgess who slew the Knights with 30 points while shuffling the ball off to her teammates like a card shark dealing in Vegas.
“I told her: ‘You’ve got to have the ball in your hand,’— she really controlled the tempo of the game,” Falcons head coach Lana Gwilliam said. “She is really starting to know when to dish, when to shoot and I thought she penetrated the ball really well.”
The Knights took an early 4-0 lead, but when the Falcons’ Mariah Hoare pulled up and nailed a three-point shot to cut the lead to 4-3, the Foothills machine was rolling.
Foothills took a 36-22 lead into the half-time break, with Burgess pumping in 13 points in the opening 20 minutes.
The Knights were able to cut the lead to 10 points early in the third quarter with a Claire Thorimbert jumper, followed by HTA’s Grade 10 rookie point guard Ashley Hickel stealing the inbound pass and going in for a lay-up to make it 38-28.
The Falcons then went on a tear, highlighted by Foothills’ Lauren Bailey going end-to-end for a lay-up for a 46-29 lead in the third quarter. An outside jump shot by Kailtyn Neal gave Foothills their biggest lead at 53-33 in the third frame.
HTA was able to close the gap when they played what their head coach Ashley Herzog calls “Knightly basketball” in the final 10 minutes.
A left-handed layup by HTA’s Charissa Hielema with 5:08 remaining cut the deficit to 10. That would be as close as they would get as the Falcons went on to the 71-59 victory.
Thinking outside of the box was key to Burgess’ 30-point outbreak.
“I took more outside shots than I usually take — I’ve been told to shoot more and this time I did,” Burgess said.
Beating the Knights twice before the playoffs was important, said Foothills Grade 12 forward C.J. Dales.
“It’s always important to beat HTA because they are our cross-town rivals,” said Dales, who attended HTA two years ago. “It’s just fun to play them.”
Despite the win, Burgess said the Falcons can’t rest easy, they can’t continue to let good teams like HTA back in the game after building a big lead.
“We got sloppy on our press-break and we started to throw the ball away,” Burgess said.
HTA Knight forward Claire Thorimbert said the Knights have proven they can play with Foothills, now they have to do it for the full 40 minutes.
“Our mental game doesn’t seem to kick in until late in the third quarter,” said Thorimbert, who led the Knights with 15 points. “If we could have played with the same intensity that we did in the fourth quarter it would be a lot better.”
She said they had trouble stopping the Red Deer College-bound Burgess.
“She is a really good player and hard to stop,” Thorimbert said. “We have to have our other wings ready to step in when she gets by you — she beat us tonight.”
Herzog agreed that the Knights can’t take time off against the high-flying Falcons.
“We always talk about playing four quarters, that we can’t have lulls,” said Herzog. “Tonight at the end first quarter, the second quarter and the first part of the third, we turned over the ball a lot, we were not running our offence, not rebounding well, not playing disciplined, we did not play Knightly basketball.”
The Falcons have been on a tear. They have won five of their last six games, including knocking off a pair of 4A ranked teams.
It couldn’t come at a better time for their coach.
“It’s coming down to crunch time with the playoffs and provincials and we are starting to gel,” Gwilliam said. “Knock on wood, but I think we are starting to play for how we need to for the end of the season.”
It was a costly loss for the Knights, despite beating Oilfields 45-34 on Thursday, HTA finished with a 5-3 record in the FAC. They are in third-place in the league behind the Strathmore Spartans who also finished with a 5-3 record, but earned the tie-breaker.
Foothills closed out the season by beating Strathmore 69-46 in Strathmore Feb. 27 to finish with a perfect 8-0 record.
The Falcons will meet the Highwood Mustangs tonight (March 5) in the FAC semifinal at the Comp at 5:30 p.m. In the other semifinal, the Knights travel to Strathmore.
The FAC girls final is 2 p.m. Saturday at HTA.