It’s been an eventful week for the Bishop Ryan Celtics senior boys’ basketball team.
On Tuesday, the new Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School on Rymal Road East opened its doors to students for the first time – a day when the temperature dipped to a record –22 C. The previous low in Hamilton for a Jan. 7 had been -20 C, set in 1968.
On Thursday night (Jan. 9), in much more comfortable conditions, the transplanted Celtics played the first Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association high school basketball game on their new home court. The Celtics couldn’t provide the storybook result, however, losing 74-20 to the defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals.
The tripleheader also saw the Bishop Ryan midget boys edge Newman, 36-34. The junior contest went to the Cardinals, 49-42.
“This gym is outstanding,” said Newman senior coach Andrew Sergi. “The first thing I noticed was how it’s so incredibly well lit. The floor is great and the stands, too. From just what I’ve seen of the gym, the facility is awesome. It’s what this school deserves. It was definitely about time for them.”
The former site on Albright Road was home to the Celtics for 23 years. Prior to that, BR’s original location was on Queenston Road.
With the victory, the first-place Cardinals improved to 7-1. The Celtics slipped to 1-7.
Sergi was pleased with the performance of his team, which earlier this week avenged a previous loss to the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, winning 69-52 (Brebeuf eventually had to forfeit their win due to a player eligibility rule).
“This was one of our best total team performances of the year,” Sergi said. “Everyone that went on the court contributed offensively and defensively. The kids were motivated. They built off Tuesday’s win over Brebeuf. They really came out with an intensity and a fire to play today.”
Marko Grahovac tossed in 20 points against Brebeuf and followed that up with a 23-point performance against the Celtics. Grahovac, a transfer from Stoney Creek’s Orchard Park Patriots, sat out all of last season in order to become eligible.
“Marko seemed to struggle with his shot a bit earlier in the season,” the Newman coach said. “He’s definitely been playing much better. Recently, he’s been on fire shooting the 3.
“Hopefully, what’s building on his offence is that he’s playing better defence for us, too. He’s more engaged in the game on the defensive end which transfers to the offensive end.”
Grahovac is in his fifth year. Said Sergi: “He has an ultimate goal to play university basketball. He’s very skilled offensively, but it’s not just what you do on offence. It’s got to be both.”
Josh Nardini, with 13 points, and David McCulloch, with 11, were the other top scorers for Newman.
Fans heard shouts of “Syracuse” a lot from the Newman bench. And according to Sergi, that refers to a form of zone defence that the Cardinals are adding to their repertoire. It’s taking the players a bit of getting used to.
“It’s a new wrinkle we’ve decided to put in. A changeup. We’re predominantly a man (-on- man) defensive team.”
Only hours before their debut appearance at the new Bishop Ryan, the Celtics were in Niagara Falls taking part in Day 1 of the Festival of Lights tournament. The Celts dropped the opener there, too, against the host Saint Paul Patriots.
In between games in the two cities, the Celtics were treated to a team buffet dinner.
Newman is entered in the St. Mike’s tournament this weekend. And Sergi says if the Cardinals can get past Windsor Herman in the opener, it will likely set up a showdown against the Toronto Oakwood Barons, the top-ranked team in the province.
During the Christmas break, the Cardinals defeated Ursuline College and Sarnia St. Pat’s at the University of Windsor tournament. A narrow loss however, came against Herman.