Hamilton plays Hamilton in all-star basketball tourney

One of the most decorated athletes in the history of Cardinal Newman Secondary School is closing in on even more championship hardware.

Cardinal teams with Phil Gillen in the lineup have captured Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association junior and senior titles in volleyball, soccer and basketball. And Tuesday night (April 2), playing at his home gym, Gillen’s Hamilton Catholic squad defeated Brant/Norfolk, 70-43, during the opening night of the 24th annual Hamilton Spectator All-Star Classic boys’ high school basketball.

Cardinal Newman’s Phil Gillen (Photo: Randy Smith)

The tournament final goes Wednesday (April 3) at 6:30 p.m. at Newman. Hamilton Catholic will be opposed by Hamilton Public, which surprised the three-time defending champions from Halton, 86-81, in the first half of the doubleheader.

Gillen, a starting goalkeeper, is also scheduled to be in action Wednesday afternoon at Players Paradise Sports Complex when Cardinal Newman faces the Cathedral Gaels in a HWCAA semi-final indoor soccer playoff.

“A whole bunch of people – teachers, principals, students and parents – have actually approached me, congratulating me on my success in winning championships at Cardinal Newman,” Gillen said after he scored two points in the one-sided win over Brant/Norfolk. “I think, in total, I have 11 medals from my high school career.”

Gillen is in his fifth year of high school. He’s says earlier this week he committed to attend York University next September to play basketball.

Andrew Sergi, who guided the Cardinals to a bronze medal at the recent Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Quad A tournament, also serves as the Hamilton Catholic coach for the tournament. He says Gillen was an extremely valuable member of the league and Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference champion Cardinals.

“We all believed as a coaching staff that Phil had next-level basketball potential,” Sergi said. “It’s funny: With our Newman team, most of the people watching are going to see David McCulloch (the point guard) and A.J. Manguerra (the other starting guard) who shoots the threes. They’ll even see Daniel Petermann (a forward) because he’s an elite-level football player.

“Maybe sometimes Phil becomes a forgotten man for us. But I would refer to him as a glue guy. He keeps our team together.”

Sergi says Gillen’s versatility is key.

“He’s our best defender so, in many cases, we’ll put him on whoever their best player is. And if we need Phil to score, he can do that, too. The thing he has to work on the most is his outside shot.”

Hamilton Catholic jumped to an 11-3 lead before Brant/Norfolk rallied for a 17-13 advantage into the second quarter. But sparked by the ACMT Jaguars duo of Jean-Victor Mukama (three consecutive three-point baskets) and Emmanuel Mukuna (a powerful one-handed slam dunk), Hamilton Catholic went on an 18-0 run to end the first half. They were ahead 37-27 at the intermission and increased their advantage to 56-34 by three-quarter time.

The top point-getters for Hamilton Catholic were: Anthony Mercanti (Bishop Tonnos) 10; Mukama and Manguerra, 9; Mukuna, 8; Luiggy Moquette, Newman, 6; McCulloch and Mackenzie Randall (St. Mary) 5; Jalen Bailey (Cathedral) 4.

Brant/Norfolk got 10 points apiece by Josh Johnson of Holy Trinity and Nolan Drong of Assumption. Andre Toic of Assumption added 6.

“They know each other from our league and from club ball,” Sergi said of the Hamilton Catholic roster. “We only had one practice with them all together. It seemed it didn’t take them long to mesh well.”

Sergi said he tried to keep the players from the same schools together in the same five-man units. “It allowed them a comfort level of guys they know,” he said. “It worked.”

In the first game, the lead switched back and forth between Halton and Hamilton Public. Forward James Miles of Westmount netted a three-point basket with one minute remaining to lift Hamilton Public into an 81-78 lead. From then on, Halton couldn’t recover.

Miles led all scorers with 28 points. MacNab teammates Sheldon McIntosh and Nick Burke contributed 14 and 12 points, respectively, while Spencer Dawson of Westmount added 10.

Halton got 25 points from Oakville Loyola’s Jake Babic. Owen Coulthard of Oakville St. Thomas Aquinas chipped in with 12.

“All-star games are a lot of fun,” Gillen said. “The players are talented and you get to work hard towards a common goal of winning … another championship is what it is.”

The consolation final between Halton and Brant/Norfolk tips off at 5 p.m. at Newman. There will also be a slam dunk contest between games. The three-point shooting contest winner was Jordan Scott of Burlington Notre Dame, who drained 19 in one minute.