Titans coach feels his team back in stride

The Bishop Tonnos Titans have regained their winning touch just in time for the playoffs.

With the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ basketball quarter-finals set for Friday, the Titans travelled to Cathedral Tuesday (Oct. 29) and defeated the stubborn Gaels, 48-44. That result snapped a three-game losing streak for Bishop Tonnos, a squad that raced to eight straight victories to open the 2013 season.

The Titans had to work for the win at Cathedral. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

The Titans had to work for the win at Cathedral. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

The Titans (9-3) will be hosts to the sixth-place Bishop Ryan Celtics (1-11) in one of the first-round playoff matchups. The other pairings have the second-place St. Thomas More Knights (9-3) against the seventh-place Gaels (1-11) and the Cardinal Newman Cardinals playing the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves. The Braves and Cardinals each had a 5-6 record heading into their game for fourth-place on Tuesday.

The first-place St. Mary Crusaders (11-1) earn the opening-round bye.

“They always play us tough,” Tonnos coach Mike Di Federico said of the last-place Gaels. Last season, the Gaels upset the Titans in the quarter-finals after the teams needed overtime to decide both of their regular-season contests.

“I love the grit of the Cathedral kids. We’re a more talented team, but they outworked us.”

Di Federico says the season has been a “grind” for his team which doesn’t have much height. Soon after back-to-back wins over the defending Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Quad A and Triple A champions (St. Thomas More and St. Mary), the Titans fell 45-43 to Brebeuf on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

“I call it the Thanksgiving Disaster,” Di Federico said of the loss at Brebeuf. “We were playing the day back after Thanksgiving. Their gym is always tough to play in. They were just a better team on that day. You can’t take anything away from them.”

The Titans losing skid also included setbacks against St. Thomas More (64-37) and St. Mary (69-44). Said Di Federico: “We haven’t played our best basketball lately, but we will be ready for the playoffs. I think we’ve got a good couple of games in us. I’m not too worried.”

Against Cathedral, the Gaels got as close as two points (22-20) in the first minute of the second half when their centre, Tashae Williams, sank a pair of free throws. The visitors took advantage of numerous unforced turnovers by the Gaels and on offence made a handful of key three-point baskets.

Lisa Stallwood paced the Tonnos attack with 11 points. Jessica DeMarinis added nine while Mikaela Morrison and Jackie Wilkinson chipped in with seven apiece.

Amoney Abakar netted 17 points for Cathedral. Point guard Katrina Collins-Samuels, with 11 points, and Williams, with 10, were the other leading scorers for the Gaels.

“Today we played a full game against one of the best teams in the league,” said Cathedral coach Michele Vesprini. “That had a lot to do with our execution both offensively and, most importantly, defensively. If we were able to capitalize a bit more off our transition game, we probably would have snuck out of here with a win. We’ve had their number.”

Vesprini praised the performance of Williams, a solid rebounder who was also 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.

“I thought Tashae was our player of the game,” Vesprini said. “She’s really been working on her inside game. She made her presence known. She’s a big body with great hands. That kid doesn’t miss a pass. And she’s a selfless player.”

Cathedral's Tashae Williams (22) went 4-for-4 from the free throw line. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Cathedral’s Tashae Williams (22) went 4-for-4 from the free throw line. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Di Federico said DeMarinis — the “quarterback of the Titans defence” — was effective in the win. “We have to get after it defensively,” the Tonnos coach said. “That’s our game. And we’ve got to knock down shots. That’s what it will come down to.”

Despite the victory by the Titans, starters Melissa Tatti and Jackie Wilkinson were both sidelined with ice bags on their injured ankles for the final quarter. Both players had to be helped off the court.

Elsewhere, the Knights completed the regular schedule with a 65-22 decision over Bishop Ryan. Kia Nurse led More with 14 points, while Eva DiGregorio and Jessica Guyatt tossed in nine and seven points, respectively, for the winners.

Stephanie Sousa answered with seven points for the Celtics. Reese Mungar was next with five.