Tonnos Titans on top in girls basketball

These Titans are giant-killers.

For the second consecutive week, the Bishop Tonnos Titans have upset a two-time defending Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations champion in senior girls’ high school basketball.

Tonnos' Melissa Tatti (11) provided 11 points for the Titans en route to a win over the defending champion Crusaders.  (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Tonnos’ Melissa Tatti (11) provided 11 points for the Titans en route to a win over the defending champion Crusaders. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

First, BT took down the St. Thomas More Knights, gold-medal winners at the OFSAA Quad A level in both 2011 and 2012. That score was 44-41. Then, on Tuesday night (Oct. 1), Tonnos humbled the province’s best Triple A squad over the past two years – the St. Mary Crusaders, 44-42, in their gym.

That leaves Bishop Tonnos alone on top of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association standings with a 5-0 record. St. Mary fell to 5-1. St. Thomas More, thanks to its 50-20 win over the Cardinal Newman Cardinals, improved to 3-2. The other game on the schedule saw the Cathedral Gaels score their first victory in five starts this season, 50-44 over the winless Bishop Ryan Celtics. St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves had the bye.

Bishop Tonnos got off to a horrible start against the Crusaders. They trailed 13-0 until Bryanna Singh cut across the key to take a pass and score a layup to end that streak of futility. Then, it was Tonnos’s turn to dominate, outscoring St. Mary 19-2 en route to grabbing a 24-22 halftime lead.

The Titans took a six-point advantage (33-27) into the fourth quarter before the Crusaders got to within two points with one minute, 40 seconds remaining. Tonnos didn’t fold, however.

Christina Buttenham of St. Mary capped the scoring with a three-point basket at the buzzer.

Tonnos' Jackie Wilkinson (20) took the rebounds and sunk the ball for 13 points.  (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Tonnos’ Jackie Wilkinson (20) took the rebounds and sunk the ball for 13 points.
(Photo: Gerry Graham)

“Any other team that comes in here and is down 13-0, they don’t get it back,” Tonnos’ coach Mike Di Federico said. “They go home with a 30-point loss.”

“Our team has so much character. And I kept saying that to the girls. We battle hard.”

Di Federico pointed to defence and rebounding as the main reasons his team was able to claw back and win. “That’s the second game against the two best teams in the province that we’ve held our own on the boards,” he said. “Well, at least we did for the last three quarters.”

Tonnos got 13 points from Jackie Wilkinson, who turned in a solid two-way effort and hauled down many key rebounds. Melissa Tatti chipped in with 11 points for the Titans – including three long three-point baskets – while teammates Jessica DeMarinis and Lisa Stallwood added eight and six points, respectively.

For St. Mary, Buttenham and Hilary Hanaka each tossed in 11 points. Halle Bovell contributed 10 and Amira Giannattasio had six.

“No excuses,” St. Mary assistant coach Nate McKibbon said. “They just played better. They took it to us. We didn’t play our game.”

The Crusaders were coming off a tournament championship at the 16-team St. Mary’s Senior Girls Tip-Off Classic. St. Mary rolled to five straight victories, including a 70-39 decision over Eastview in the final. Hanaka was named MVP of the tournament and Buttenham received all-star honours. Tonnos, incidentally, lost to the Crusaders in the 2010 OFSAA Quad A gold-medal game in Hamilton.

“The shots were falling for us tonight,” Di Federico said. “No doubt about it. You need them to fall to beat a team like that. When Melissa knocked down three (three-pointers) in a row, it brought the emotion back for us. She goes off sometimes and takes some questionable shots, but when you’re a good shooter, sometimes you’ve got to let them go.”

Di Federico also praised the efforts of Wilkinson, who has played for six Hamilton Transway Ontario club championship squads.

“To sum it up,” Di Federico said, “Jackie is fearless. It doesn’t matter what the score is or who we’re playing. She’s intense. She’s tough. Even though it looks like she’s giggling, she’s a competitor. She plays with a lot of guts. You can’t intimidate the kid.”

Wilkinson, a Grade 12 player, scored on a back-door layup with 1:20 left to restore Tonnos’s four-point lead. She then added a defensive rebound and two free throws.

“When we got behind we didn’t really get down on ourselves,” Wilkinson said. “We kept working and fought through it as a team.”

Elsewhere, at Cardinal Newman, the game marked the return of guard Kia Nurse to the lineup of the St. Thomas More Knights. She had missed the first month of the schedule due to her commitment with the Canadian senior women’s national team at the FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico. Nurse, 17, helped Canada qualify for next year’s world championship tournament in Turkey. The Knights, with Nurse seeing limited action, got 11 points apiece by Nicole Ramberg and Hailey Brown in their victory over the 2-3 Cardinals. Monika Batinic netted nine points for Newman.

At Cathedral, the Gaels were led by Amoney Abakar’s 25-point performance. She poured in seven three-pointers.

Katrina Collins-Samuels and Amy Nguyen added eight points each for the Gaels who went into the intermission tied at 27.

The top scorers for Bishop Ryan were Reese Mungar (13), Kara Canning (10) and Brittany Roberts (nine).