Top guns aiming for first in Catholic high school basketball

First place will still be up for grabs during the final week of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior boys’ high school basketball schedule.

The Cardinal Newman Cardinals (10-1) scored a hard-fought 58-55 victory over the visiting Cathedral Gaels (8-2) on Thursday (Jan. 30) and took possession of top spot in the seven-team standings. However, the St. Thomas More Knights (8-2) also downed the St. Mary Crusaders, 37-25, and that sets up a couple of key contests. On Tuesday (Feb. 4), Cathedral visits More and two days later Newman travels to More.

Newman guard David McCulloch (22) took the ball from the Gaels and came up with 20 points.  (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCSDB)

Newman guard David McCulloch (22) took the ball from the Gaels and came up with 20 points. (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCSDB)

If the Knights win both, they’ll finish first in a tie-breaker due to their recent 56-54 decision over the two-time defending champions from Newman. The first-place team earns a bye in the opening round of the playoffs.

“I’m glad we’re in first place,” said Newman guard David McCulloch, who scored 20 points against the Gaels. “This was the biggest game of the year for us.”

Gaels coach Mark Maga praised McCulloch’s performance, calling him “fundamentally sound” and a player who can do everything.

In the league opener, the Gaels defeated Newman on the scoreboard, but Cathedral eventually had to forfeit due to an ineligible player.

“It was close,” Maga said of the rematch. “Down by three we had the ball. That’s all you can ask for.”

Cathedral advanced the ball into the Newman zone before an errant pass turned the ball over and denied the Gaels a chance at the tying shot.

Cathedral, which trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, rallied when guard Daniel Dzierzawski took matters into his own hands. He drove the lane to score 11 unanswered points, giving the Gaels a 39-36 lead heading into the final quarter.

“Daniel is such a competitor,” Maga said. “When we were down by 12, I knew he would start taking it. I don’t think anyone in this league can match his aggressiveness, athletic ability and strength when he gets to the rim.”

Dzierzawski, reportedly committed to the Brock University Badgers for next season, led all scorers with 27 points. Teammate Braedon Brown chipped in with nine.

For the Cardinals, Jeff Baradziej, Tyler Brown and Marko Grahovac netted 11, 10 and nine points, respectively.

Sergi was pleased with the win but not satisfied with his team’s play which he called “sloppy” and too “sporadic.”

“I didn’t think we were mentally tough enough for four quarters,” the Newman coach said. “We didn’t take advantage of the situation. We tell the guys, understand the time and the score. We gave them too many opportunities to score with the clock stopped.

“I do like the way our team responded to their run (15-2) with a run of our own (sparked at both ends by Brown).”

St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves defeated the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 71-48, in Thursday’s other game. Verone Kalongi was the top scorer for Brebeuf with 15 points, while Chris Lloyd replied with 14 for the Celtics.

Joel Clarke led the Knights attack with 16 points.

Cathedral’s completes its schedule Thursday (Feb. 6) against Brebeuf.