Who says defence is boring to watch?
Two of the most eye-popping plays during the 25th annual Hamilton Spectator All-Star Classic at Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School on Monday (March 31) resulted from blocks by Kareem Collins of the Cathedral Gaels. And largely because of those defensive gems, Hamilton Catholic A was able to defeat Hamilton Public, 74-73, in overtime.
The other semi-final of the two-day, four-team boys’ high school basketball tournament saw Halton top Hamilton Catholic B, 72-66. That sets up a final on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. between Hamilton Catholic A and Halton. Hamilton Public and Hamilton Catholic B will open the doubleheader, at 5 p.m., with the consolation title match.
Hamilton Catholic split into two squads this year for the first time because Brant County dropped out. Representatives from Cathedral, Cardinal Newman and Brebeuf are part of the Catholic A unit, while the B entry is comprised of players from Bishop Ryan, Bishop Tonnos, St. Thomas More and St. Mary.
Hamilton Public clung to a 71-70 lead in the late stages against Catholic A. Nicola Djogo of the Saltfleet Storm had just pulled down a defensive rebound and Darnell Curtin of Saltfleet took a pass and was going in for what appeared to be an uncontested layup with 19.2 seconds left. Enter Collins, however, with the saving block.
Daniel Dzierzawski of Cathedral then connected on four straight free throws. Djogo capped the scoring with a putback basket at the buzzer after Public missed a three-point attempt.
“His two blocks were ultimate hustle,” coach Andrew Sergi of Cardinal Newman and Hamilton Catholic A said of Collins. “He never gave up on either play. He timed them perfectly and chased the guy down. It’s an all-star game … he could easily have said ‘oh well, it’s going to be a layup.’ But he didn’t. I’m incredibly impressed with the effort he gave. For what it’s worth, I told him that, for me, he was the MVP of the game.
“If I’m a university coach sitting in the stands, that’s the stuff I remember over everything else. And that’s the kind of guy I want on my team. Those are the things that win games.”
Collins, a Grade 12 forward who plans to return next year, also scored 17 points. Dzierzawski, with 17, and Rommel Calura of the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, with 10, were the other top scorers for the winners.
Sheldon MacIntosh of the Sir Allan MacNab Lions paced Hamilton Public with 16 points. Curtin added 14 and Nemanja Ilic of the Westmount Wildcats chipped in with 12.
“I was thinking, ‘I can’t let him score,’ because I wanted to win the game so bad,” Collins said. “At first, I didn’t want to jump because I had four fouls. But then I thought I mind as well not let him score. Let him shoot at the free throw line instead of getting an easy basket.”
MacIntosh forced the overtime when his clutch shot at the buzzer made it 63-63.
In the opener, 6-foot-7 Simisola Shittu of Halton’s Corpus Christi Longhorns led his squad to victory with an 18-point performance. He is only in Grade 9. Filip Vujadinovic of Halton added 15 while his Nelson Lords teammate, Stefan Duric, contributed nine points.
Matt Elcock and Macbeth Madziba of the St. Mary Crusaders led the Hamilton Catholic B attack with 19 and 14 points, respectively.
Halton held quarter leads of 19-14, 34-30 and 53-48.
“It was a fun game,” said Elcock. “They definitely had a lot of size on us.”
Elcock, whose St. Mary team recently advanced to the quarter-finals of OFSAA Triple A in Welland for the first time in 10 years, said the all-star event was fun to watch and exciting to be involved in.
Vujadinovic, a forward, will be looking for a little revenge against Hamilton Catholic A in the championship final. Although Nelson went undefeated en route to capturing the Halton title this season, it couldn’t get past the Cardinal Newman Cardinals in the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference final. Vujadinovic also plays rep basketball in Hamilton for Blessed Sacrament with several of the Hamilton Catholic league players, so he’s hoping to walk away on Wednesday night with the bragging rights.
“If we lose,” Vujadinovic said, “we’re going to remember we lost, not how much fun we had. Not many guys can finish their last high school game with a victory.”
As for the wave of Canadian talent currently performing in NCAA Division I basketball, Vujadinovic says it “inspires” him. He’s still in the process of checking out schools whose offer he might accept.
“I want to be like those guys on TV shows getting recognized for how much hard work they put in,” said Vujadinovic. “Personally, I feel I’m underrated right now in Canada. If I can get up to a good D-1 school and show what I know, I feel it will work out for me.”
Ilic won the 3-point shooting contest by draining 21 in a minute. Marko Grahovac of Cardinal Newman (17), Elcock (18), and Duric (14) were the other competitors.
There also will be a slam-dunk contest as part of the action on Wednesday at the Cardinal Newman gym. Proceeds from the game support the Jeff Dickins Memorial Bursary and the Hamilton Spectator Summer Camp Fund.