By Larry Moko
Opponents of the Cathedral Gaels won’t want to hear this.
“I think we’re a better team than last year,” Cathedral coach Kevin Daly said after his defending OFSAA champions defeated the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, 65-34, Thursday.
The Gaels rolled to 20 consecutive victories during the 2021 season en route to a provincial AAA title in St. Catharines. They averaged 78.2 points for while allowing 36.1 against.
“Nine of our players are back,” Daly explained. “And we picked up two new ones.
“A year of experience really helps. Our defence and our half-court offence can still get better.
We’ve been working on those two at practice.”
Cathedral improved to 2-0 in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic standings and, for the Cardinals, it was their first start.
Maya Flynn paced the Gaels attack with 21 points, while twin sisters Keira and Nicole Daly added 19 and 12 points, respectively.
Julia Romano was the top scorer for the home team with 16.
Cathedral raced to a 22-7 lead by the end of the first quarter but Newman rallied impressively in the second quarter, outscoring the Gaels, 12-10.
“I can’t remember a game when we were outscored in a quarter,” veteran starter Flynn said.
Said coach Daly: “There probably was the odd game last year when that happened. Newman really took it to us in that second quarter. Credit to them. They did a good job.”
To start the second half, however, Cathedral went on a 20-2 run. First Flynn poured in nine points and then Keira Daly put together a streak of 10 more unanswered points.
“The girls started the half ready to go and I was proud of that,” the Gaels coach said. “We regained our focus. We did a really good job of pressuring in the third quarter.”
Steals, forced turnovers and three-point baskets are again what Cathedral excels at on the court.
“We’ve got to keep improving because we know people are gunning for us,” coach Daly said.
“Everything is going well. Last year we were lucky with injuries and health. We’re hoping that continues.”
Cathedral defeated the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 63-27 on Tuesday, and last weekend won top honours at the Western tournament in London.
“I feel we have a very similar goal this year,” Flynn said. “We want to win OFSAA again. We don’t know the competition yet but Frontenac won AA last year and we’re going to be playing them at a couple of tournaments.”
Several of the Gaels home games have been shifted to St. Mary due to construction at Cathedral’s gym which began in June.
“The stands had to be replaced,” coach Daly said. “I was down there today. They thought they might even be done in the next day or so. Brand new stands. They look beautiful.”
The other senior game saw the Bishop Tonnos Titans top the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 47-42.