The scoreboard at the Nelson High School gym in Burlington read 40-22 in favour of the St. Thomas More Knights over the Lords when the buzzer sounded for half time.
Knights coach Blaize DiSabatino was not very pleased at that point, however. One of the Lords had just worked free for a layup basket in the last second of play. So as her players gathered at the bench, DiSabatino stared at the group, pointed at the dressing room and barked “Get in there!”
It’s the temporary letdown in defensive performance that she found unacceptable. Otherwise, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association champions were outstanding. The Knights defeated the Halton champion Lords 69-42 on Wednesday (Nov. 13) to capture the 2013 Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference senior girls’ Quad A basketball title.
More will advance to the provincial high school tournament in Windsor, Nov. 21-23, attempting to bring home a third consecutive provincial Quad A gold medal.
“We can’t start creating bad habits,” DiSabatino said of her lecture at the intermission. “That’s what we were starting to do there. We were a little lackadaisical on the defensive end. We need to be aggressive on defence. That’s the thing that got us here. That’s what we need to keep as our major focus.”
More’s defence, on the whole, impressed Nelson coach Brittany Jackson.
“Their defence was really strong,” Jackson said. “That was the most pressure we’ve faced all year. Their press was causing a lot of turnovers and we gave them a lot of points off those turnovers. We weren’t prepared to execute well enough on our press break.”
Much of the defensive grit for More was provided by Erin Burns, a veteran guard.
“She was the heart and soul of our team in that game,” DiSabatino said. “She got us motivated and got us moving. She stepped up and put her body on the line for the team (taking charges). She got some buckets and rebounds down at the other end, as well.”
Kia Nurse again turned in a spectacular performance for the winners. She scored 25 points while seeing action in only the first three quarters. The veteran point guard also dished off some eye-popping assists, rebounded effectively and dribble penetrated to the basket on numerous occasions.
Said Jackson: “Kia is outstanding. It’s a tough challenge to try and guard her with just one person.”
The Knights also got 11 points by Hailey Brown, 10 by Burns and eight by Jessica Guyatt.
Jaidyn Anderson drained five three-point shots in six second-half attempts to finish with 15 points for Nelson. Amy Jarvis contributed 14 points – 10 came in the first quarter – and Ivana Vujadinovic netted nine.
“As I told our girls,” Jackson said, “we just competed against one of the top teams, if not THE top team, in Ontario. We have to be proud that we held on as well as we did. They have outstanding skill. They are obviously well coached and have a senior women’s national team player (Nurse) on their team. We’ve got a few girls who haven’t played any more than high school ball.
“Nothing surprised me. We knew what we were up against. We were happy to have won the Halton championship. To make it to the Halton final was our goal. To upset Holy Trinity was icing on the cake.”
DiSabatino was pleased with how the Knights executed against Nelson’s zone defence. She said More did an excellent job of getting the ball to the basket and not settling for outside looks.
“A lot of times when another team uses a zone it really slows the pace of the game,” DiSabatino said. “But with our intensity on defence, we were able to keep the flow going and keep the pace up. It was nice how we responded to that.”
Heading into the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament, the Knights also feature a deep bench. Other players on the team are Taylor Floris, Annamaria Masale, Julia Randazzo, Julia Sorbara, Nicole Ramberg, Abbey Clark, Eva DiGregorio, Natalie Laharnar and Ella Mahler.
“Our goal is to play five solid games at OFSAA,” DiSabatino said. “We want to leave it out there each and every game. Nothing is guaranteed. Hopefully, we’ll be able to compete for gold.”
More hopes to become the first team since the formation of Quad A in 2001 to win three consecutive Ontario championships in that category.
According to the Nelson coach, More’s chances for success at provincials are good. “They’re easily the best team we’ve played all season,” she said. “Player after player. There isn’t a weakness down the line. It was one weapon after another.”