Point taken: More looking strong

The St. Thomas More Knights are missing the point.

But they still know what it takes to win Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ high school basketball games.

Brebeuf kept the scoring close, until St. Thomas More responded with 20 unanswered points. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Despite the absence of their sensational point guard, Kia Nurse, the visiting Knights defeated the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 54-34, Thursday (Sept. 12) in the league opener. Other games saw the defending Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Triple A champion St. Mary Crusaders defeat Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 60-39, and the Bishop Tonnos Titans rally to edge the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 47-42.

Nurse, 17, is scheduled to be away until the end of September while she’s with the Canadian senior women’s national team. That squad will gather for a training camp in Edmonton before leaving to compete at the FIBA Americas championship in Mexico. It’s a qualifying tournament for the 2014 world championships in Turkey.

Nurse, incidentally, is the youngest player on the Canadian team and has been receiving rave reviews. She plans on returning to high school competition in October.

“They’re strong with her (Nurse) and strong without her,” Brebeuf guard Cierra Torosantucci said of More’s performance to open the 2013 campaign. “She’s the biggest threat on the court. She stops a lot of offence and is good on offence herself.”

The Knights and Braves were deadlocked 6-6 before More tossed in 20 unanswered points. The two-time defending OFSAA Quad A champions from More took a 26-8 advantage into the intermission and stretched the lead to 41-18 by the end of the third quarter.

“Life is still good,” Knights’ coach Blaize DiSabatino said. “We have an extremely hard-working team. Everyone is looking to do the little things. Everyone is looking to contribute.

“Definitely, Kia is a great player. She’s a difference maker. But without her we’re still strong. We’re hoping to continue in that fashion.”

St. Thomas More never looked back, finishing with comfortable 20 point lead over the Braves. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Nicole Ramberg and Erin Burns scored 14 points each for the Knights, while Taylor Floris and 6-foot-1 Grade 9 student Hailey Brown contributed seven apiece.

For Brebeuf, Torosantucci (her twin sister Alyssa also starts in the backcourt) netted 17 points and Crista Sebastiani added seven.

“You knew it was coming,” Brebeuf coach Kevin Karl said of the 20-0 run that More used to snap the early tie. “Our girls made a good comeback, though. We fought hard. We have a young team and they (Knights) have been playing together for a few years.

“We basically start five guards. We have trouble rebounding.”

DiSabatino said Burns and Ramberg mainly handled the point- guard duties, but others “ran with it” at times, too. Said DiSabatino: “We’ve been trying to have kids play many roles. So, during the game, if someone is not on the floor, someone else can pick it up.”

The game also marked the high school debut of Newman Youth product Brown, who also has suited up for the Hamilton Transway organization, the Ontario U-15s and the Canadian national Cadette team. Said Karl: “Her footwork is outstanding. She runs the floor and handles the ball. I think she’s better than Kia was in Grade 9.”

According to DiSabatino, Brown is a great kid, and a hard worker eager to learn.

“Because of her size,” DiSabatino said, “Hailey has played an inside game on a lot of her different teams. We’re looking to develop her outside game as well.”

Overall, the veteran Knights’ coach was pleased with her team’s debut. “I thought we played extremely intense defence,” she said. “I like that. When you bring in kids you hope they buy into that. It’s hard work to do it for the entire game.”

In the other contests, Christina Buttenham led the Crusaders to victory with 14 points. Monika Batinic also netted 14 for the Cardinals. And at Bishop Ryan, Tonnos trailed 25-21 at the half and 36-30 at three quarters before pulling ahead in the final two minutes. Haley Bowie paced the Titans with 17 points, while teammate Lisa Stallwood chipped in with nine. For the Celtics, the leading scorers were Reese Mungar (13), Brittany Roberto (11) and Stephanie Sousa (8).

Cathedral Gaels had the bye.