Gaels Extend Undefeated Streak Over Celtics

Gaels Extend Undefeated Streak to Nine Games with 66-49 Win Over Celtics
Posted on 01/13/2024

By Larry Moko
The first-place Cathedral Gaels pulled away in the fourth quarter against the visiting Bishop Ryan Celtics to extend their undefeated streak to nine games in Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school basketball.

Cathedral, which held a narrow four-point lead early in the final eight minutes, dominated down the stretch for a 66-49 victory Thursday.

Those same two teams met on Cathedral’s home court last season when BR eliminated the favoured Gaels, 61-59, in a semifinal playoff --  thanks to a three-point basket with 3.9 seconds left on the clock.

“Our lineup in the fourth quarter tonight closed the game out really well,” Cathedral coach Luca Fortino said. “Those players were strong offensively, defensively and in rebounding.”

According to Fortino, centre Andrae Astwood was a key factor in the surge which stretched the lead to 19 points at one point.

“Andrae had a great game,” the Gaels coach said. “He was a difference maker. He scored in double digits in the fourth quarter and had lots of rebounds, too.”

Astwood finished with 13 points.

Said Fortino: “We found some mismatches and I think Andrae found a way to exploit it a little. He dominated in the fourth.”

Other top scorers for Cathedral were Josh Granger-Bigford with 16 points, Jaden Campbell, with 11, and Kaiden King-Stewart, with seven.

The Celtics leading point-getters were Grade 11 guard Antonio Salinas (16), Neye Awani (13) and Adam Adili (eight).

“The point guard gave me the ball and I went to work to help the team win,” 6-foot-5 Astwood said. “We tried to keep composed at the end. I think we played pretty good.”

Astwood attended Cathedral in Grade 9 but left for other high schools in Burlington and St. Catharines before returning this season. He is currently in Grade 12.

“We’ve got a well-rounded team,” Astwood said. “Our coaches are good. I think we can really go far.”

Cathedral led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter and went into the half with a 30-19 advantage. The Celtics fought back, however, on four three-point baskets in the third – two by Awani and one apiece by Salinas and DeShawn Mills.

“It’s always a great game against my former school where I started my career,” Bishop Ryan coach Mike Di Claudio said. “It was very competitive.”

“My guys work hard. The effort is always there. I’m really proud of them.”

The Celtics (3-5) need to do a better job of avoiding turnovers and sinking more foul shots, Di Claudio said. “We’re having trouble hitting our foul shots. We’ve got to fine tune that part of our game … and less turnovers. We’re working on it.”

In other senior games, the Bishop Tonnos Titans topped the ACMJ Jaguars, 69-41, the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals defeated the St. Mary Crusaders, 68-49, and the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves edged the St. Thomas More Knights, 58-55.

Cathedral, St. Thomas More and Bishop Tonnos will be in action Jan. 12-13 at the 51st Horizon Financial Management Silver Fox Invitational tournament. A total of 16 top-notch high school teams are entered and games will be played at Glendale and Saltfleet District.

The championship game tips off Saturday at 8 p.m. at Saltfleet.

Photos by Bob Butrym / RFB Sport Photography

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