By Larry Moko
The Cardinal Newman Cardinals senior girls’ high school basketball team seems to be the real deal in 2017.
Newman remained undefeated (5-0) and in sole possession of first place with a 55-53 victory Tuesday over the third-place St. Thomas More Knights.
The only other Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association game saw the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves down the Cathedral Gaels, 58-42.
The hard-fought road victory over More came on the heels of Newman’s 54-46 win at St. Mary over the second-place Crusaders (medal winners at OFSAA for the last seven consecutive seasons, including six straight gold).
“We haven’t beaten these senior teams (More and Mary) in years,” Newman veteran forward Claudia D’Angelo said. “Our team is just amazing. With the juniors coming up, it’s been way different.
“We’re really fast in transitioning from defence to offence.”
It was D’Angelo who scored the winning basket on a jump shot with 7.8 seconds left on the clock. She took a kick-out pass from Renata Djuravcevic on the play. D’Angelo, who has verbally committed to attend Seton Hall University on a soccer scholarship next fall, and Djuravcevic were both members of Newman’s OFSAA championship soccer squad.
“The plan was to try to keep passing the ball around to find the opening,” D’Angelo said of the deciding bucket. “It just so happened that it was me that had the clear shot. No one was around me. As soon as it left my hands I knew it was a good shot. And we knew we would have a good chance of finishing the game off.”
More had tied the score at 53-53 about 30 seconds earlier when Alexis Stewart, after being fouled on a three-point shot attempt, coolly sank all three opportunities from the foul line.
The leading scorer in the game was Tatyanna Burke of the Cardinals. She tossed in 21 points while Djuravcevic chipped in with 17.
For St. Thomas More, Stewart and Alliasen Miscione netted 14 and 10 points, respectively.
“The girls have been working hard since the beginning of the year,” said Newman coach Roy Milutinovic. “We’ve already won two tournaments (Brantford and Mohawk). We have a lot of good athletes and the girls are buying into our system.”
Milutinovic says the Cardinals are versatile group and like to run.
“We drive, we shoot, we hustle and we play great defence,” he said. “We play everybody. Everybody sees the floor.”
More led 14-9, 26-22 and 43-36 at the quarter breaks.
“Our team and their team are both competitive,” Burke said. “They brought out the best in what we had.”
Burke, a Grade 11 student and Niagara JUEL team member, is another Cardinal with a soccer background at Newman.
“As soccer players,” she said, “we run a lot. We have endurance. It makes us more athletic and willing to go for the boards.”
Newman, More and St. Mary are among the teams entered in the More Hoops tournaments scheduled for St. Thomas More at the end of this month.