Newman and Gaels headed to OFSAA

Newman and Gaels headed to OFSAA in girls’ basketball
Posted on 11/15/2023
Newman at GHAC game

By Larry Moko

Sixteen teams at next week’s OFSAA girls’ AAA high school basketball tournament can expect double trouble.

That’s because they’ll be facing two entries from the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league.

The two-time defending provincial champion Cathedral Gaels and the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals each won their Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinals Tuesday to qualify for the Ontario showcase event in their hometown, Nov. 23-25.

Cathedral topped Burlington’s Nelson Lords 80-39, while Newman travelled to Oakville to defeat the St. Ignatius of Loyola Hawks, 48-31.

“Hamilton is well known for being a (basketball) hotbed … and rightfully so,” Loyola coach James Mojica said. “The coaching is fantastic over there. Their teams have represented themselves well at provincials for years.

“We’re all GHAC family so we’ll be cheering them on.”

Loyola entered the contest undefeated in Halton Catholic league play over the past three seasons. Last year they bowed out against Cathedral at GHAC.

The Cardinals were especially strong on defence against the Hawks. In the first quarter, Loyola was forced into numerous turnovers and held to just two points – a put back basket with 48 seconds left on the clock.

Newman led 10-2, 24-6 and 35-20 at the quarter breaks.

“Our bread and butter is defence first,” Newman coach Roy Milutinovic said. “We’ve had several of these low-scoring battles.

“We were all crashing the boards … even the guards.”

It was the first meeting of the season between the two schools.

The leading scorer for the Cardinals was Grade 11 student and Niagara JUEL rep player Grace MacDonald. She had 12 points. Grace Fleming and Larissa Ruggiero tossed in 10 apiece while Julia Romano and Mia Persia contributed six and five points respectively.

Nikolina Rupcich replied with 16 points for the Hawks. Paige Ryce added six and Nuju Ubosi chipped in with five.

Said Mojica: “It was probably our worst shooting performance -- finishing at the rim -- of the season. I’m proud of the way we competed, particularly on defence. We just couldn’t put it through the hoop.”

Neither team could drain a shot until late in the first quarter. That’s when MacDonald and Fleming connected for back-to-back three-pointers.

The Cardinals finished the game with eight 3s compared to one for Loyola.

“It gives energy to the bench,” MacDonald said of Newman’s long-distance shooting proficiency.

Persia led the ball-hawking efforts for the visitors.

“We had a bunch of steals,” she said. “Our defence was on point. We showed a lot of versatility. We worked super well together.”

A Grade 13 student who will be making her first appearance at an OFSAA competition, Persia said Loyola featured some very talented players who were difficult to guard.

“I knew if we put our minds to it, we could do it.”

“I’m grateful to get to go to OFSAA. I think our team absolutely deserves it. I’m excited.”

Other members of the Newman squad are Jessica Sager, Liliana Bozzo, Krissy Golinski, Ella Marchetti, Carina DiGregorio and Ava Trombetta.

It’s not a debut appearance at OFSAA for a Milutinovic-coached Newman team, however.

“We’re very pleased,” the Newman coach said. “It will be nice to get back. We were there before COVID for a couple of years in a row.”

“This time we won’t have to travel.”

The GHAC final between Cathedral and Newman will be for OFSAA seeding purposes only. It will be held Nov. 16 at Cathedral.

The Gaels defeated Newman 67-50 to capture the Hamilton Catholic title last week.

Cathedral’s winning over the past three seasons now stands at 81.

Newman girls playing GHAC gameNewman girls playing GHAC game
Newman girls playing GHAC game
Newman girls playing GHAC game
Newman girls playing GHAC gamePhotos by Richard Andoga