Cathedral comes out victorious

Cathedral comes out victorious at Vesprini-Jordan basketball classic
Posted on 10/02/2023
Cathedral girls' basketball team

By Larry Moko

A 67-game winning streak over the past three years by the Cathedral Gaels appeared to be in jeopardy at the Michele Vesprini-Jordan Cancer Research Classic Saturday.

The host Gaels ultimately hoisted the championship trophy at the 16-team girls’ high school basketball event, but they faced a stiff challenge in the final. In a battle of two Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league rivals, Cathedral recovered from a halftime deficit to down the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, 79-59.

It was the third consecutive tournament title this season for the two-time defending OFSAA champions.

Cathedral went to the dressing room at the intermission trailing, 39-38. And that score was largely due to some hot long-range shooting by Newman. The Cardinals were energized by connecting on nine 3-point shots in the opening half compared to just one for the home team.

A strong defensive effort down the stretch, however, got the Gaels back on track.

“Defensively, we wore them down,” Cathedral coach Kevin Daly said. “I think that’s what happened. They got a little tired in the second half and the shots they were making weren’t going any more.”

Tournament Most Valuable Player selection Keira Daly led the Cathedral attack with 29 points. Her twin sister, Nicole, contributed 22 points while their cousin, Rachel Daly, and Maya Flynn chipped in with eight points apiece.

For Newman, Mia Persia and Grace MacDonald finished with 14 points each. Julia Romano tossed in 11 and Larissa Ruggiero had eight.

“We worked our butts off,” Persia said. “All of us. I had open looks so I guess I took the shots and they were hitting.”

Newman reached the final by defeating Windsor St. Joseph’s, 51-44, Sarnia St. Pat’s, 51-40, and Ajax Pickering, 66-54.

“We were playing some of the best teams in the province and putting them out by more that 10 points,” Persia said. “I’m really excited about what’s to come throughout the rest of the season during league play.”

Cathedral’s earlier wins came against Windsor’s Holy Names (61-40), Windsor’s St. Anne (70-56) and Mother Teresa of London (62-47).

“This was pretty important because it was our home tournament (others were held in London and Windsor),” Gaels rookie Beatrice Clausen said. “It was also very hard competition.”

Clausen, a Grade 11 student, is the lone newcomer to the Gaels starting lineup. She did, however, get called up from the junior ranks to experience the OFSAA provincial AAA tournament in 2022.

When asked if there’s much pressure on Cathedral to keep the streak alive, she said, “It’s a double OFSAA-winning team so you want to keep that going. We’re all about defence.”

Coach Daly describes the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league as the “best in Ontario.” In addition to Newman’s strong performance in the final, the St. Thomas More Knights lost only 75-70 to Cathedral last Thursday in regular-season action.

“Newman is an excellent team,” the Gaels coach said. “They hit shots and were playing with us today. It wasn’t a fluke. And they beat three of the top 10 teams in Ontario to get here.

“Against More, we were down by seven in the third quarter. It was a battle. They’re a good team, too. We’re going to have to work to win.”

This year’s OFSAA tournament will be held Nov. 23-25 at the More and Cathedral gyms.

Cathedral basketball teamCathedral basketball playerCathedral player shooting basketballNewman basketball playerTeacher poses with Cathedral student holding trophyPhotos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

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