Another challenger for the title seems to be emerging in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior boys’ high school basketball league: The St. Thomas More Knights, led by senior guard Ryan Doornick, are now knocking on the door.
Just prior to the Christmas break, the Knights upset the first-place Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 56-54, in triple overtime. Newman is the defending HWCAA champion and a bronze medallist at the provincial Quad A level last season.
St. Thomas More kept that momentum going in the first scheduled action of the New Year on Tuesday (Jan. 7), defeating the visiting Bishop Ryan Celtics, 56-44. That result improved More’s record to 5-2. Bishop Ryan slipped to 1-6.
“Most people in the league thought we were kind of a middle-of-the-pack team,” said More coach Mark Moretuzzo. “I think the win over Cardinal Newman put us in contention. All of our losses this year have been really tight.
“We didn’t thrive so much in December but come February we’ll probably be a dangerous opponent in the playoffs.”
The score was tied, 8-8, at one point, but More never trailed. The Knights led 20-12, 33-18 and 52-33 at the quarter breaks.
Doornick led all scorers with 14 points. Cousins Jaylen Clarke and Joel Clarke added nine and eight points, respectively, for the Knights who recently played two American opponents at a tournament in Pennsylvania.
Centre Chris Lloyd tossed in 11 points for the Celtics, while Eric Bonomo and Aaron Hasler contributed nine apiece.
The Knights used athleticism, quickness and solid defence to make up for an overall lack of height.
“As a smaller team, we’ve been working a lot on rebounding and pushing the ball,” the More coach said. “It’s definitely been helping us in transition to get some easy baskets.”
According to Moretuzzo, the leadership of Doornick is beginning to show.
“Ryan is a fifth-year guy,” Moretuzzo said. “He hasn’t played a full season in the last two years. He’s been injured. He’s definitely our best scorer and overall player. This year he’s trying to make an impact, looking for something at the next level.”
Doornick says he’s recovered from the concussion problems that sidelined him last season.
“We’re finally playing better as a team,” Doornick said. “We’re getting along better in the locker room. The selfishness is going away.
“We’re playing to our full potential. We understand we can play with anybody in the league and win.”
Bonomo, a Grade 12 guard whose cousin Vanessa plays for the McMaster women’s basketball team, said the Celtics made too many turnovers in the loss to More. He’s excited, however, about the prospect of playing at home on Thursday at 7 p.m. against Newman. The midget/junior/senior tripleheader that day marks the official opening of Bishop Ryan’s gym at the school’s new location on the Mountain. The first day of classes was Tuesday.
“It’s a good school,” Bonomo said of his initial reaction to the new Rymal Road facility. “I love it. The gym is very nice. Shiny and new. It pops out at you.”
Said Celtics coach Steve Begadon: “The gym is gorgeous. We’re looking forward to it a lot.”
The Celtics hosted a tournament last month and said goodbye to their Albright Road home with a victory over the Burlington Assumption Crusaders. The Cathedral Gaels won the BR tournament championship with a 98-96 win over the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves.
“That was a fantastic game,” Begadon said. “It went to quadruple overtime. It was a great way to leave the gymnasium.”