CHS girls bring home basketball championship

CHS senior girls bring home basketball championship for the 3rd year
Posted on 11/09/2023
CHS basketball team

By Larry Moko

A giant hand-painted sign that hung in the Cathedral gym reminded the St. John Henry Newman girls’ basketball team of the challenge it was facing.

The sign said ‘3-PEAT!’ It was situated directly under the Canadian flag in the Newman squad’s line of vision during the playing of the national anthem.

Entering the 2023 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior final on Wednesday, the Cathedral Gaels had won two consecutive league championships – along with a pair of OFSAA gold medals – and their winning streak stood at 79 games.

So considering all that, perhaps it’s understandable that Newman got off to a slow start – trailing 10-0.

Cathedral continued to roll as the game progressed, building quarter leads of 24-7, 41-20 and 59-31 en route to a 67-50 victory.

“It’s a huge home-court advantage for us,” Cathedral coach Kevin Daly said. “This is a hard place to play. We have a great crowd. They cheer loud. It can be intimidating.

“Thanks to our fans. It definitely helped us at the start.”

The Cardinals, who finished third in the standings, lost to Cathedral for the fourth time this season.

“Nervousness maybe,” Newman coach Roy Milutinovic said of his team’s slow start in the final. “I don’t know why.

“Every time we play at Cathedral it’s loud. Obviously, they’re a great team.”

Cathedral again was paced by twin sisters Keira and Nicole Daly. They scored 23 and 17 points, respectively.

The pair also excelled at other aspects of the game including rebounding, 3-point shooting, post-up play, ball handling and defence.

“They can play any position,” Milutinovic said. “They run like the wind and they’re complete players. They can do everything.”

Centre Nubeah Clarke added 10 points for Cathedral. And all of those baskets were set up by Daly assists.

“They’re special the way they play,” Clarke said Dalys. “They’re amazing. I feel I can swing a certain way and know the ball is going to come to me. I just have to finish.”

At the end of each of the first three quarters, a Cathedral player – Clarke, then Keira and then Nicole Daly – connected for buzzer-beating baskets.

“It really excites a team to see that,” coach Daly said.

Clarke is one of five players who has been with the team throughout its impressive three-year winning streak. The others are the Daly sisters, their cousin Rachel Daly and Maya Flynn.

“It’s incredible what these guys have been able to accomplish as a team,” coach Daly said. “People don’t realize how hard it is to keep winning and never have a letdown. I’m really proud of them. They deserve it. They put the work in.”

Other Cathedral players include Angelina Medeiros, who netted six points, Chayla Chase, Beatrice Clausen, Mekeelah Dillon and Mika Losak.

The top scorer for Newman was Grace MacDonald who tossed in 18 points. Larissa Ruggiero chipped in with 15, while Grace Fleming and Julia Romano added five apiece.

Both the Gaels and the Cardinals will be advancing to Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinals Tuesday. Cathedral takes on Burlington’s Nelson Lords while Newman faces the eventual Halton Catholic winner.

“At least we have an opportunity to tell the girls our season didn’t end tonight even though we lost the championship,” Milutinovic said.

Flynn, who played a key role in Cathedral’s two OFSAA titles, briefly returned to the lineup against Newman. The Cardinal players and coaches graciously allowed her to score late in the game.

“Unfortunately, she’s not going to be able to play,” coach Daly said. “She had a major knee injury earlier in the season that needs surgery. She wanted to get on one last time. It was really memorable for Maya. She was happy to get one last basket.”

And with that, the fans chanted ‘Maya Flynn! … Maya Flynn! … Maya Flynn!’

Each of the GHAC semifinal winners qualify for the OFSAA tournament Nov. 23-25 in Hamilton.

CHS and Newman basketball gameCathedral and Newman basketball gameCHS girls hugging Newman girlNewman basketball teamCHS basketball teamPhotos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography