Iowa-bound Buttenham focused on Hamilton championship

Christina Buttenham has her eye on Iowa. She also has her sights set on winning another Ontario high school basketball championship.

The St. Mary Crusaders veteran, who early last year made a verbal commitment to attend the University of Iowa on a hoops scholarship, hopes to go out with a bang during her final season of Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ league competition.

Christina Buttenham led the St. Mary Crusaders to victory over the Gaels. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Buttenham and the Crusaders have captured either the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Triple A or Quad A gold medal in each of the past three years. And so far in 2013, St. Mary appears capable of making another run at top provincial honours. The Crusaders improved to 2-0 with a 79-34 victory over the visiting Cathedral Gaels on Tuesday night (Sept. 17).

Buttenham led all scorers with 21 points.

“I definitely want to win the city’s (championship) and from there, OFSAA, too,” Buttenham said. “It’s the last year for a few of us.”

In addition to the team goals, Buttenham wants to improve as an individual player. “I just would like to be a leader,” the product of the Transway club system said. “I want to be someone my teammates (many Grade 10s) can look up to. Someone they’re not afraid to questions to.

“I also want to be more consistent during games.”

Buttenham tossed in a pair of three-point baskets against the Gaels, ran the floor well and was strong underneath the basket. It’s that kind of performance that Crusaders’ coach Rich Wesolowski expects out of the 5-foot-11 former Canadian national Cadette squad member.

“She’s the biggest kid we have and she’s probably the most athletic,” Crusaders’ coach Rich Wesolowski said. “So she has to make plays that some other kids might not be able to make. At crunch time, she will have to step up.”

Wesolowski hopes to see Buttenham get stronger on the court mentally, too.

“If she has downs, she’s got to get through them a little better,” the veteran St. Mary coach said. “And shooting the ball, if she’s struggling, she’s got to get over it. Get after it again and don’t think about it.”

Buttenham made her official visit to the Hawkeyes Division 1 campus two weekends ago. Once again, she left being favourably impressed. “I get such a great feeling when I’m there,” she said. “I can’t wait until next year.”

St. Mary led 20-6, 43-17 and 63-25 at the quarter breaks. Other top scorers for the winners were Halle Bovell (14 points), Taylor Randall (13) and Mackenzie Trpcic (10).

For the Gaels, who were making their season debut, Shekina Kienansatuko paced the attack with 12 points. Nya Gathoth had 11 and Katrina Collins-Samuels chipped in with seven.

An inexperienced Cathedral Gaels team put in a good effort against St. Mary for their season opener. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Gaels’ coach Michele Vesprini praised the effort of her relatively inexperienced team. “We worked really hard,” Vesprini said. “We only have three girls who played a lot last year. Everyone else is very new to the game, let alone senior ball. We were pleasantly surprised by Shekina, a Grade 9 French immersion student, who showed great athleticism. She played with no fear. And Katrina never stops. That’s the kind of leadership the rest of the girls need to see.”

In other senior girls’ basketball action, the Bishop Tonnos Titans upped their record to 2-0 with a 52-41 decision over the Cardinal Newman Cardinals. Haley Bowie tossed in three, three-point baskets in the first half and finished with a team-high 18 points for Tonnos. Lisa Stallwood added 17.

The winless Cardinals, who trailed by 14 at the half but cut the margin to two with about five minutes remaining, got 21 points by Monika Batinic. Newman’s Alyssa Cerino chipped in with 12.

The St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves evened their record at 1-1 with a 60-35 victory over the Bishop Ryan Celtics. For the Braves, Alyssa Torosantucci netted 16 points while her twin sister, Cierra, tossed in14. Crista Sebastiani, the game’s leading rebounder, also scored 11 points.

Bishop Ryan (0-2) got seven points apiece by Ariana DiPietro, Reese Mungar and Brittany Roberto.