Eastern Commerce takes advantage of Newman momentum

The Cardinal Newman Cardinals failed to benefit as much as they should have from a bizarre trip to the charity stripe.

With one minute, 38 seconds left in the third quarter of their Mark Walton Invitational high school basketball tournament game at Cathedral High School on Saturday (Dec. 7), the Cardinals received eight consecutive free throws from technical fouls assessed to the Eastern Commerce Saints.

Those technicals were the result of a mild skirmish on the court between the two teams. Josh Nardini of the Cardinals got the call to take all eight of those attempts from the foul line. He sank seven to give Newman a 45-39 lead.

Eastern Commerce picked its defence and shutdown Newman in the final quarter after a mild skirmish on the court.  (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Eastern Commerce picked its defence and shutdown Newman in the final quarter after a mild skirmish on the court. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

At the other end, Narcisse Ambanza of the Saints missed his only technical foul shot.

Despite that swing, however, the Cardinals couldn’t take advantage of the momentum. They ended up losing to Eastern Commerce in the consolation final, 63-59.

“It gave the other team more of a lift,” said Nardini, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “They took it more personal. We didn’t respond.”

Five of the Saints and one member of the Cardinals was deemed by the officials to have left their respective benches to step on the court for what amounted to some pushing and shoving. So the difference was four, two free throws for each one. Two players from the Saints and one Cardinal were ejected.

“I’ve never seen that many,” Cardinals coach Andrew Sergi said of the technicals.

For the rest of the contest, Eastern Commerce picked up its intensity on defence and muscled its way to the basket, making life miserable for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association squad.

Said Sergi: “I’m a little disappointed at the way we finished after that little skirmish. It seemed they responded better to it. It seemed to motivate them. They elevated their game to another level. We didn’t.

“It should have been a turning point to our advantage. Instead, it actually became a detriment to us.”

Nardini, a first-year senior, said he was a bit nervous stepping to the line but aware that the team trusted him.

“He shoots free throws and the three-point ball extremely well,” Sergi said of Nardini. “He’s in our rotation and deservedly so. He’s still making some junior mistakes, though. He’s a work in progress.”

David McCulloch and Tyler Brown were the leading scorers for the defending OFSAA Quad A bronze medallists, with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Narcisse Ambanza, with 16, and Trayvon Ross, with 14, were the top point-getters for Eastern Commerce.

Newman ended up losing two of three on the weekend. The Cardinals lone victory was against Oakville Holy Trinity.

(Photo: Gerry Graham)

(Photo: Gerry Graham)

“We understand there’s no shame in losing to Catholic Central and Eastern Commerce,” Sergi said. “They are among the best teams in the province. But to go 1-2 is unacceptable. We expected more of ourselves. We came here looking to play in the championship.”

Sergi said the Cardinals made too many mistakes in the two losses and they continue to give away opportunities.

“Our consistency just isn’t there,” he said. “Maybe it’s because last year’s team was so consistent. You come to expect it all the time. No excuses. We need to be better.”

The Cathedral Gaels, who defeated Newman recently in HWCAA league play, also finished the tournament with one win and two losses. Hamilton’s other representative – the St. Thomas More Knights – went 0-3.