Crusaders step up after injury sidelines senior

An injury during the More Hoops tournament last weekend has temporarily brought the curtain down on the sister act that performs for the St. Mary senior girls’ high school basketball team.

St. Mary point guard Hilary Hanaka cheers her team from the sidelines.  (Photo: Gerry Graham)

St. Mary point guard Hilary Hanaka (right) cheers her team from the sidelines. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Senior point guard Hilary Hanaka was sidelined for Tuesday night’s (Oct. 8) Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association game at Cardinal Newman against the Cardinals. But even without Hilary in the lineup – younger sister Julia also plays for St. Mary – the Crusaders were able to breeze past the Cardinals, 63-26.

Hanaka, who earlier this month verbally committed to attend University of Vermont on a basketball scholarship next fall, was injured early during the semi-final of the More tournament. St. Mary went to win the game, 62-49, over Markham’s Bill Crothers Colts before dropping a 64-56 decision to the host St. Thomas More Knights in the championship of the three-day, 20-team competition.

Hanaka came to the Newman gym using crutches with a walking boot on her right foot.

“It was right at the jump ball, actually,” Hanaka said of her injury. “I got stepped on, on the outside of my foot and I continued running. Then, my foot was caught behind me and a girl fell on top of it.

“I talked to the doctor and no surgery is necessary. I was told to just stay off it for about two weeks.”

Hanaka, you might recall, helped Team Ontario win a gold medal at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. She also has international experience with Basketball Canada’s Cadette team. St. Mary assistant coach Nate McKibbon is confident Hanaka will return to the court in time for the playoffs.

“The only way she would miss a final is if her foot was missing,” McKibbon said. “It’s going to be hard to keep her off the court. She’s a tough kid.”

The Crusaders took control at the Cardinal Newman gym.  (Photo: Gerry Graham)

The Crusaders took control at the Cardinal Newman gym. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Second-place St. Mary improved its record to 6-1 with the victory over Newman (3-4). The top scorers for the Crusaders were Taylor Randall and Mackenzie Trpcic, with 12 points apiece, Christina Buttenham, with 11, and Julia Hanaka, with 10.

Alyssa Cerino, whose brother Dan is the kicker for the University of Windsor football team, paced Newman with 14 points.

Said McKibbon: “We took (Monday) off because they’ve probably had almost 2 ½ weeks straight of basketball without a day off. It’s always a bit of unknown, though, how you’ll respond after that. I think they responded well. We definitely got some good contributions from a lot of different players. It was a good team effort.

“Hilary is a fantastic player, someone you are going to miss, but I was pleased with the way the other players were able to carry a heavier load.”

The Cardinals trailed 14-4, 30-8 and 46-19 at the quarter breaks. The Crusaders showed good ball movement and took advantage of numerous turnovers to connect for layups.

“They are a strong team,” Newman coach Jodi Pomerleau said of the defending HWCAA champions. “We started to click a bit better in the second half. But we had too big a hole to get out of. Our unforced turnovers didn’t help.”

Cardinal Newman managed 26 points, but numerous turnovers did them in.  (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Cardinal Newman managed 26 points, but numerous turnovers did them in. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Hanaka, incidentally, has already won three Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations gold medals with the Crusaders (two at the Triple A level and one at Quad A). She was a teammate with her older sister, Emily, when they captured OFSAA Quad A gold in Hamilton in 2010. Emily currently plays university basketball for the Dalhousie Tigers.

As for Julia, she’s a high school rookie. She was a member of the Hamilton team that won bronze in basketball a few months ago at the International Children’s Games in Windsor.

“Playing with my sisters is probably one of the best things I’ve ever got to do,” Hanaka said. “They are both very close to me. It’s like playing with another best friend on the team. The last time I played with my younger sister was her first year of novice, five or six years ago.”

McKibbon has helped coach all three of the Hanakas.

“It’s a great family and it’s been a pleasure to coach them,” McKibbon said. “They have different personalities, but to watch the way they interact is really special. It’s really great to see how close they are as people first and foremost and just the way they support each other on the court and off.”

In other HWCAA league games, St. Thomas More (5-2) got 14 points by Kia Nurse and 10 by Taylor Floris en route to a 61-27 victory over the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves (2-5). Jen Maki replied with 12 for Brebeuf.

At Bishop Tonnos, the first-place Titans improved their record to 7-0 with a 60-27 win over the Bishop Ryan Celtics (0-7). Tonnos got 16 points by Jessica DeMarinis and 14 by Melissa Tatti. Stephanie Sousa and Reese Mungar answered with nine and six points, respectively, for the Celtics.