Crusaders-Knights back for basketball title replay

The saints come marchin’ in to McMaster University’s Burridge Gym on Thursday (Nov. 7).

That’s the night the St. Mary Crusaders and the St. Thomas More Knights face each other for the 2013 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ high school basketball championship. Game time is 7:30 p.m. (the finale of a HWCAA midget, junior, senior hoops tripleheader beginning at 3:30).

St. Thomas More and St. Mary earned their berths to the league’s showcase event with home semi-final playoff victories on Tuesday (Nov. 5). More crushed the Bishop Tonnos Titans – whom they had lost to during the regular season – 60-21, while St. Mary defeated the Brebeuf Braves, 58-44.

Knights point guard Kia Nurse kept the ball away from Bishop Tonnos. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Knights point guard Kia Nurse kept the ball away from Bishop Tonnos. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

It will be the third straight year the Crusaders and the Knights have squared off for the city Catholic championship.

“I think it will be an all-out war,” St. Mary coach Nate McKibbon said of the matchup with the Knights. “It should be beautiful basketball to watch. I’m really looking forward to being part of it.

“We’ve played each other four times this year (including tournaments) and we’ve been fortunate to come out ahead three times. Those have been two and three-point games, though. I have no doubt Thursday is going to be the same.”

St. Mary brought home provincial gold medals from Triple A in each of the past two seasons, while More captured Ontario top honours in 2012 and 2011 at the Quad A level. This season, the Crusaders finished first with a record of 11-1 and earned an opening-round playoff bye. The second-place Knights were 9-3.

“It should be an entertaining, high-paced game,” More coach Blaize DiSabatino said of contest against the Crusaders. “We definitely have the height advantage. I think St. Mary has the advantage from outside the three-point line.”

The Knights raced out of the gate against third-place Tonnos, building a 24-2 lead. More’s defence caused the Titans to turn the ball over on travelling violations three times in the opening quarter. The Knights led 36-11 at the half and 48-13 at three quarters. The biggest lead for More was 41 points.

“We played exceptionally well,” DiSabatino said. “We were able to set the pace of the game. We also were able to dominate the boards and knock down shots.”

Kia Nurse – a point guard for the Canadian senior women’s national team – sparked the Knights with her play-making, rebounding and defensive skills. Nurse also netted 13 points. Abbey Clark led More with 15 points – all in the first half. Hailey Brown added nine.

For Tonnos, Haley Bowie was the top scorer with eight points.

“Abbey has the capability to play both inside and outside,” DiSabatino said. “She is very dangerous out there (three, three-point baskets for Downtown Abbey). When she is taking her shots she can definitely get hot. That’s what happened tonight. She was knocking down shots and taking the ball to the basket. So she’s very hard to defend.”

A Grade 11 student, Clark played on the Blessed Sacrament Juvenile Division 1 team which DiSabatino coached to an Ontario Basketball Association gold medal last summer.

Abbey Clark led St. Thomas More with 15 points. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Grade 11 student Abbey Clark led St. Thomas More with 15 points. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

At St. Mary, the Crusaders took a while to get going. But perhaps that’s because they returned to the court for the first time in almost two weeks thanks to the bye. At the intermission, their lead over fourth-place Brebeuf was only 32-22.

“Credit goes to Brebeuf,” McKibbon said. “They came out and battled. They had a very good game plan. Coach (Kevin) Karl is an excellent coach and they did everything they could to slow us down. They had sort of a three-quarter-court press and back into the half-court zone. They really executed what he was looking for.

“I’m pleased with our performance. We started to make some adjustments and our kids became the aggressors as the game went on.”

Christina Buttenham led all scorers with 30 points. Ally Brandt and Mackenzie Trpcic chipped in with six and five points, respectively.

The Braves got nine points by Crista Sebastiani. Twin sisters Alyssa and Cierra Torosantucci netted eight points apiece.