Calura had weight of Chancellor’s title on his back

brebeuf_logoThey’re the buzzer-beating Brebeuf Braves.

Guard Rommel Calura drained a three-point shot as time expired to give the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves a thrilling 51-49 championship final victory over the Cardinal Newman Cardinals at the 35th annual Chancellor Invitational boys’ high school basketball tournament on Saturday (Dec. 14).

It was Brebeuf’s first Chancellor’s title since 1981.

“It was amazing,” Braves’ coach Perry Bruzzese said of the deciding play at the St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School gym. “There was like dead silence in here when the ball was in the air. As soon as it went in, the place erupted.

“What a great feeling. It was an excellent game. Both teams played really well.”

The defending champion Cardinals trailed 28-20 at the half but fought back to grab a one-point lead when guard David McCulloch penetrated the lane, was fouled and sank both of his free throws with seven seconds left. With 5.5 seconds remaining, and after each team called a time out, Brebeuf ran its final play.

“They defended it pretty well,” Bruzzese said. “J.R. (Calura) got to the left side just outside the 3-point arc. And he was double-teamed when he released it.

“He carried us on his back this weekend (victories over Oakville Loyola, Westmount, St. Thomas More and Newman). He’s our go-to guy. He’s only in Grade 11, but he’s playing like a seasoned veteran.”

Calura, who was selected the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, scored 17 points in the final. Teammate Lucas Johnson added 10.

McCulloch and Tyler Brown answered with 19 and 14 points, respectively for Newman.

Bruzzese also praised the performance of Veron Kalonje, a Brebeuf post player who was named to the tournament all-star team. Said Bruzzese: “Veron had double digits in rebounds (against Newman).

“He cleaned up on the glass, especially on the defensive end. He played really well.”

Cardinal Newman currently is 5-0 in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior standings while Brebeuf has one loss in five starts. Those two teams tangle again during the first week back after the Christmas break. In their first meeting, the Cardinals won 60-44 at Brebeuf on Nov. 28.

Said Bruzzese: “I told our guys at the beginning of this game that they’ve got an opportunity to beat a great team. If you knock these guys off, you’ll be recognized not just in our league, but across the province. It was a huge win for us. Our kids are ecstatic.”

Cardinal Newman went undefeated in league action last season en route to capturing a bronze medal at the OFSAA Quad A championship.

Sixteen teams took part in the two-day Chancellor competition at the More and Bishop Tonnos gyms.

Tournament All-Stars
Mfiondu Kabengele, Burlington Corpus Christi
David McCulloch, Cardinal Newman
Marko Grahovac, Cardinal Newman
Veron Kalonji, Brebeuf

Rommel Calura, Brebeuf

Saturday Chancellor results

St. Catharines Governor Simcoe 63 (Ben Whitty 19, Dalon MacEachern 12) Westmount 58 (Nem Ilic 12, Mike Dagg 10)

London Banting 47 (Micah Kirubel 30, Jackson Mayers 5) Niagara Falls St. Paul 40 (Reece Fisher 13, Jordan Terrio 10)

Sarnia Northern 70 (Sam Fairbairn 12, Calum Dietzel 12) Moncalm 58 (Said Smajic 26, Tyrel Hilts 12)

Burlington Notre Dame 56 (Kurt Baturdo 8, Aiden Bull 8) London Westminster 29 (Paul Miller 13)

Toronto Father Redmond 63 Bishop Tonnos 61 (OT)

Burlington Corpus Christi 56 Oakville Loyola 48

Championship semifinal – St. Jean de Brebeuf 47 (Rommel Calura 15, Justin DiPietro 7) St. Thomas More 44 (Jaylen Clarke 16, Ryan Doornick 10)

Championship semifinal – Cardinal Newman 48 (David McCulloch 17, Marko Grahovac 16) Oakville Holy Trinity 39 (Ignas Brazdeikis 10, Chris Hawkins 9)

Consolation final — Burlington Corpus Christi 61 (Sim Shittu 19, Mfiondu Kabengele 15) Toronto Father Redmond 51 (Josip Vrankic 24, Alex Petronis 21)

Championship final – St. Jean de Brebeuf 51 (Rommel Calura 17, Lucas Johnson 10) Cardinal Newman 49 (David McCulloch 19, Tyler Brown 14).