Gaels’ bench comes through in upsetting defending champions

The Cathedral Gaels found the perfect way to open the 2013-14 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior boys’ high school basketball season: With a win, of course.

But it wasn’t just any win. It came against the two-time defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals, a squad that went undefeated in league play last season en route to capturing a bronze medal at the provincial Quad A high school championship.

The Gaels took the opener, 61-55, in a see-saw affair at the Cathedral gym on Tuesday (Nov. 26).

(Photo: Gerry Graham)

(Photo: Gerry Graham)

“Cardinal Newman has won the last two championships, so we kind of used this as a measuring stick,” Cathedral coach Mark Maga said. “They are a great team. I knew if we worked hard, though, we could give them a game.

“Our shots fell. Things went our way.”

Elsewhere, the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves blasted the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 72-28, and the St. Mary Crusaders downed the St. Thomas More Knights, 54-43.

The Gaels are 4-1 overall this season and Maga is pleased with the team’s early showing.“We’re strong, fast and athletic,” he said. “I think we can play with anybody in the city.”

A three-point basket by Anthony Torresen at the buzzer to end the third quarter gave the visitors a 46-45 lead. However, Donnel-Brae Shingaro, who scored a total of 17 points, connected on an alley-oop bucket and a jump hook to spark an 8-0 Cathedral run to open the final quarter.

The Cardinals were in striking distance at 59-55 with 38 seconds left, but they missed the front end of a one-and-one and failed to find the mark on a three-point attempt plus a close-in two-point try in the final seconds. Andrew Smoke got the final defensive rebound for Cathedral, was fouled and made one of his free throws to complete the scoring with 2.9 seconds left.

“Cathedral beat us in every aspect of the game,” said Newman coach Andrew Sergi. “They worked harder, they were more aggressive, they executed their plays better and they out-coached us. Full credit to them. They were engaged in the game and, for the most part, we weren’t.

“They followed their game plan and took advantage of our deficiencies.”

Sergi expects opponents to be hungry to dethrone Newman this season. The Cardinals lost eight players from their championship squad of 2012-13.

“This league is one of the best in the province,” Sergi said. “Cathedral was intense, tonight. They were determined. We need to match that intensity. Our team has a lot of potential. Defence made us successful in the past.”

Guard Kareem Kollins led the Gaels attack with 20 points. Dylan Millar added 11.

For the Cardinals, guard David McCulloch tossed in 17 points and Marko Grahovac netted 10.

Maga said Kollins showed good composure and played extremely well. He was filling in for point guard and captain Braedon Brown, who got into early foul trouble and sat on the bench for almost the entire third quarter. Said Maga: “He (Brown) is our leader. Everybody really looks for him. So I thought it was great for other guys to step up and provide what he usually gives us. I think that will help us throughout the year.”

Brebeuf got 15 points in its victory by Nathan Bruzzese. Chris Lloyd replied with 16 for Bishop Ryan.

At St. Thomas More, St. Mary got 16 points by Matt Elcock and 13 by Madziea MacBeth in its victory. The top scorers for the Knights were Jaelyn Clarke, with 16, and Ryan Doornick, with 15.

On Dec. 6-7, Cathedral will be the host team for the fifth Mark Walton Invitational Tournament. The eight-team event features, Cathedral, Newman, More, Oakville Holy Trinity, Toronto Eastern Commerce, Windsor Catholic Central, Etobicoke’s Father Henry Carr and St. Marguerite D’Youville of Brampton.