Despite what the league standings indicate, the Cathedral Gaels head into the home stretch as the only Hamilton Catholic high school boys’ basketball team without a “loss.”
The senior Gaels defeated the visiting St. Mary Crusaders, 57-53, on Thursday (Jan. 16) to improve their HWCAA record to 8-1.
Cathedral, however, is still unbeaten on the court. Coach Mark Maga’s Gaels actually topped the defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 61-55, on opening night only to have the result overturned by forfeiture due to an administrative error involving the eligibility return date of a transfer player.
“We kind of got robbed for the Newman game,” said Gaels’ forward Dylan Millar, who scored 10 points against the Crusaders. “We beat them fair and square. But stuff happens. We’ll get them next time.”
All teams will now be off for almost two full weeks during the exam period.
Said Maga: “On the score sheets, we haven’t lost a game. One mistake on my part cost us a game. As long as we win out, though, we’ll be in first place.”
Cathedral has three games remaining – Jan. 29, at Newman, Feb. 4, at St. Thomas More and Feb. 6, at home against St. Jean de Brebeuf.
“Those are three tough games,” Maga said. “The goal is to finish either first or second.”
All seven schools qualify for the playoffs with the first-place team earning a bye to the quarter-finals. This year’s league title game is scheduled for Feb. 20 at a neutral site – McMaster University.
“I’m ecstatic with our position right now,” Maga said. “We were in the bottom half of the league last year when these guys were young. They worked hard and took their lumps. We’ve added a few pieces and we’re sitting at 8-1. But we’re not satisfied. Here, at Cathedral, it’s about putting the (championship) banner on the wall. That’s kind of what you’re going against … you’re fighting against history.”
St. Mary (5-5) tied the score at 53 when Abraham Ofosu sank both of his free throws with one minute and 50 seconds remaining. Cathedral guard Daniel Dzierzawski replied with two successful free throws of his own before completing the scoring with a spinning dribble-penetration basket.
Dzierzawski led all scorers with 21 points. Forwards Shamar Mensah and Andrew Smoke added eight points apiece for the winners.
The Crusaders, who feature big players who are athletic plus some dynamic shooters, got 18 points from forward Shawn Carey. Guard Mathew Elcock added 13 and forward Brandon Francis-Jean-Pierre chipped in with nine.
“Daniel was great at the end,” Maga said. He’s a finisher. He’s our most skilled offensive player and he was there for us again. Braedon Brown did a great job for us defensively on Mat Elcock who scored 30 against us last time.”
Coach Pat Papalia says his Crusaders have been involved in a lot of close games against good teams and can’t seem to win them. Some unforced turnovers proved costly against the Gaels. According to Papalia, St. Mary also failed to box out and grab loose balls at key times.
“We’ve got to fix that and make the plays we have to make at the right time,” he said. “Right now, we’re not doing it. Our problem is we’re getting outworked by the other team.”
The Gaels took a 33-26 lead into the intermission thanks largely to an 11-3 run to close out the first half.
In other action, St. Thomas More (7-2) got 16 points from Ryan Doornick in a 54-48 victory over Brebeuf. Verone Kalonji replied with 14 points for the Braves (1-8).
Cardinal Newman (8-1) at the Bishop Tonnos Titans (2-7) was the other game on the schedule Thursday.