The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association has pulled off an unprecedented triple-double in Ontario girls’ high school basketball.
With their gold-medal victories on Saturday (Nov. 23), the HWCAA’s St. Thomas More Knights and St. Mary Crusaders each chalked up a third consecutive Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship.
For St. Mary, it was actually a fourth-straight OFSAA title because they elected to compete against Quad A schools in 2010.
The Knights defeated Scarborough’s Blessed Pope John Paul II Panthers 73-47 for the championship of this year’s 16-team, three-day Quad A tournament. Down the 401 in London, the Crusaders also went 5-0, topping the Sarnia Northern Vikings 64-36 in the Triple A final.
“Me and my assistant coach, Gillian Valvasori, actually watched the Quad A championship in between our two games today,” St. Mary coach Nate McKibbon said. “We were proud to see how well they played and how well they represented Hamilton. We were pleased to hold up our end of the bargain, too. It’s another special day for Hamilton women’s basketball.”
Against Northern, Amira Giannattasio and Christina Buttenham led the Crusaders with 15 points each. Hilary Hanaka added 14 for the winners, who turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter and created turnovers which produced some easy points.
Said McKibbon: “It was really the defensive pressure that turned the tide, got us going and carried us through to the final whistle. The girls did a fantastic job of just making sure that anywhere they (Northern) turned they saw a St. Mary jersey. We were all over them.”
In their semi-final earlier in the day, St. Mary blasted London’s St. Thomas Aquinas Flames, 69-15. The Flames were seeded fourth. The Crusaders, who outscored Aquinas 22-0 in the second quarter, got 17 points by Giannattasio, 14 by Buttenham and 11 by Taylor Randall.
The Crusader roster also includes MacKenzie Trpcic, Hannah McGurk, Julia Hanaka, Halle Bovell, Ally Brandt, Sarah Badke and Natasha Burns.
“It just proves how strong Hamilton high school girls’ basketball is,” More veteran Erin Burns said of the latest medal victories by HWCAA squads against the province’s elite teams.
“I couldn’t be more happy. One is nice, but to have three is more than anyone could ask for. I’m so glad I got to experience all the wins with the girls on this team.”
Canada’s senior women’s national team member Kia Nurse poured in 31 points and Abbey Clark added 20 for More in its final. More trailed 15-4 at the end of the first quarter before rallying to take a 30-27 lead into the intermission.
“Kia got two quick fouls and was out of the game for most of the first quarter,” Knights coach Blaize DiSabatino said. “We knew we could come back from a deficit. We’ve done it before. We just didn’t want the deficit to be too large.”
Said Burns: “The whole time we were down, I knew we had no reason to panic. I knew we would be able to bring it back with our composure. We kept pushing and never gave up. I thought we wanted it more than them.”
Although the entire More team played well this season, it was the contributions in all facets of the game by Nurse that propelled the Knights to the top. Nurse missed the first part of the season due to her commitment with the senior women’s national team in Mexico.
“She definitely increased the speed of our play,” Burns said. “She brought out the best in us.”
Other members of the Knights lineup are: Taylor Floris, Hailey Brown, Annamaria Masale, Julia Randazzo, Julia Sorbara, Nicole Ramberg, Jessica Guyatt, Eva DiGregorio, Natalie Laharnar and Ella Mahler.
“What an amazing accomplishment by these girls,” DiSabatino said. “Before the game we talked about it … we talked about being a part of history.”
Since the formation of the Quad A level in 2001, no other team has won three straight titles. And St. Mary becomes the first girls’ basketball team in OFSAA history to capture four consecutive gold medals.
From 2001-06, HWCAA teams had a lock on the Quad A division, with either St. Mary, St. Thomas More (2004) or Bishop Ryan (2001) prevailing each year.