By Larry Moko
Coming off the most productive senior girls’ basketball season in their school’s history, the Cardinal Newman Cardinals are striving for more.
Led by a solid group of returnees from its OFSAA silver-medal-winning squad of 2017, Newman achieved an 86-25 victory over the visiting St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves Thursday.
It was part of opening-day action for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association league. Elsewhere, the Cathedral Gaels edged the St. Mary Crusaders, 51-48, and the St. Thomas More Knights defeated the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 56-6.
How successful was Newman on the court last season? Very. The Cardinals not only captured the HWCAA title for the first time in 32 years, they won the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference playoff and participated in the provincial championship tournament for the first time ever.
Newman was the No. 1 seed at OFSAA but couldn’t get past St. Joseph’s College of Toronto (46-41) in the gold-medal game.
Newman’s only other league championship came in 1985.
“This was a good game for us,” Cardinals coach Roy Milutinovic said after the contest against Brebeuf in the renovated gym now known as the RedZone.
“Everyone played well. We lost a couple of starters from last year’s team but four Grade 11s came up and stepped right in.”
When asked about expectations for the speedy Cardinals, Milutinovic said: “One game at a time.”
Elle Cooney and Tatyanna Burke led the Newman attack with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Melissa Tougher and Jessica Paolini each chipped in with 13, while Kirsten Badzioch contributed seven.
For the Braves, Mya D’Arrigo scored 16 points and Emma Brown had six.
“Our style is still run and gun,” Milutinovic said. “We push it and play intense defence. We want to be aggressive on defence to get points off that.
“We’ve also developed more half-court sets than we had last year. Some teams gave us trouble with half-court stuff.”
A highlight for Milutinovic was seeing second-year centre Paolini connect on a three-point basket. “I told her she could shoot from outside the arc. At the beginning of the year, everyone has the green light. She was wide open. I even yelled ‘shoot’ before she shot it. She’s sometimes hesitant. I’m glad she took the shot.”
Paolini says she enjoys playing in the post and doesn’t consider herself “a big shooter” from the outside.
“Actually,” she said, “last year I got contacts. That helps a bit. They’ve been really encouraging to shoot outside the arc and to take a shot when you’re open. I’ve been working on it.”
The Cardinals are entered in four tournaments over the next couple of months beginning with the 16-team event at Western in London.
Newman also came out on top in the junior game, 47-18. Other junior girls’ basketball results were: St. Mary 50 Cathedral 46; St. Thomas More 56 Bishop Ryan 35.