When you think of co-leaders atop the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ basketball standings, the St. Thomas More Knights and the St. Mary Crusaders naturally come to mind.
In recent history, those two schools have battled for first place in their league competition before advancing to take top honours when the provincial high school championships rolled around. The Knights, for example, are two-time defending OFSAA Quad A title holders, while the Crusaders have captured the Ontario Triple A crown for each of the last two years.
On Tuesday night (Sept. 24), however, it was the Bishop Tonnos Titans who retained a share of first place in the HWCAA. The Titans improved to 4-0 with a 44-41 victory over the visiting Knights, who lost for the first time in three starts. St. Mary (4-0), also won Tuesday, 66-27 over the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves.
St. Thomas More failed to connect as Bishop Tonnos hung on to improve to 4-0 on the season. (Photo: Gerry Graham)
More, which trailed 13-6, 24-16 and 36-24 at the quarter breaks, made a late charge but failed to connect on a three-point attempt at the buzzer.
“I told the girls that they’re going to hear throughout the city that Kia (Nurse) didn’t play and that’s why we won,” Titans coach Mike Di Federico said. “I think we deserve a little more respect than that.”
Nurse is expected to rejoin the Knights in October after she finishes playing for the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team at the FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico. A 17-year-old guard, Nurse tossed in 12 points Tuesday to help Canada to its third straight win – 89-45 over Venezuela.
Said Di Federico: “St. Thomas More is a fantastic, well-coached team. They’ve got a legitimate shot of winning Quad A with or without Kia … they’re that good.”
Lisa Stallwood paced the Titans attack with 12 points. Haley Bowie added 10, while Jessica DeMarinis netted four of her six points from the free-throw line in the final two minutes. Laura Palamarchuk and Jackie Wilkinson contributed five points apiece for the winners and Melissa Tatti had four.
Lisa Stallwood (1), with Transway and Blessed Sacrament club experience, led the Titans with 12 points. (Photo: Gerry Graham)
For the Knights, Grade 9 student Hailey Brown and Abbey Clark were the leading scorers with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Nicole Ramberg chipped in with eight.
“They rattled us near the end, but we brought it back,” Di Federico said.
The Tonnos coach says his guard-oriented team is small, fast and can shoot well. In addition, the Titans are experienced enough to handle pressure from an outstanding defensive team such as More. “We’ve really bonded together as a team this year,” he said. “That’s what it is. We’ve got to battle as a team to have a chance against anyone in this league.
“At any point we can put five steady guards on the floor.”
Knights coach Blaize DiSabatino said the Titans simply executed better.
“I’m sure it was extremely entertaining for the fans,” DiSabatino said. “We were expecting Bishop Tonnos to come out shooting the ball well, but not maybe as well as they did. We had a hard time knocking down shots and finishing inside. We couldn’t really get anything going. They played good defence.”
The Titans out-rebounded the Knights and DiSabatino said her team, with its overall height advantage, should not have allowed that to happen.
Stallwood, a Grade 12 student with extensive Transway and Blessed Sacrament club experience, said it was an exciting victory for the Titans.
“We brought our game,” Stallwood said. “I think we took every play by itself. We didn’t get ahead of ourselves. We played as a team and didn’t get down on ourselves.”
Elsewhere, the Cardinal Newman Cardinals got 17 points from Alyssa Cerino en route to a 57-47 victory over the Cathedral Gaels. Cathedral cut the margin to six points before the Cardinals pulled away on a three-point basket by Cerino and another by Jessica Ireland.
St. Mary got 20 points by Amira Giannattasio and rolled over the injury-riddled Braves. Crista Sebastiani led Brebeuf with 11.
DiSabatino, incidentally, has viewed Nurse’s Team Canada games on television during the world championship qualifying event. “We’ve been cheering her on from home,” DiSabatino said. “It’s very exciting to watch her play so well.”
More and St. Mary tangle Thursday in league action and are among the 16-teams entered in this weekend’s St. Mary Senior Girls’ Tip-Off Classic. Games are scheduled for both More and St. Mary.