Another Nail-biter in Basketball Quarter-finals

Another Nail-biter in Basketball Quarter-finals - STM vs SJB
Posted on 02/09/2024

By Larry Moko

Of course, the St. Thomas More Knights and St. Jean de Brébeuf Braves were involved in a closely-contested quarter-final high school basketball game.

What else would you expect?

During the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic regular-season schedule, More, Brébeuf and the Bishop Tonnos Titans each finished with an 8-6 record. And, in the head-to-head meetings between the Knights and Braves, they split their series, with each winning by three points.

That three-point margin continued Thursday in the opening playoff round as the visitors from Brébeuf advanced with a 63-60 victory.

Semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 14 will match the Braves against the first-place Cathedral Gaels and the third-place Titans against the second-place St. John Henry Newman Cardinals.

“We know that team is going to play us tough, right to the buzzer,” Braves’ coach Jae Dunphy said of the Knights. “They’re always prepared. They keep it simple. What they do, they do really well.
“I’m glad we were able to hold on down the stretch.”

Guard Raef Calura of the Braves made the first of his two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining to cap the scoring. When he missed the second shot from the charity stripe, however, Brébeuf’s speedy Omaree Francis gained possession to deny More the opportunity to tie.

“It was an exciting finish,” said coach Stef Giovannangeli, whose Knights trailed by 15 points with 5:24 left on the clock. “I’m really proud of how our guys battled to the end.”

Brébeuf, which held quarter leads of 19-11, 38-28 and 47-34, got 19 points by Calura and 18 from Kevahn Taylor. Francis added 10 points.

Francis also connected for two foul shots with 12.9 seconds left that gave Brébeuf a 62-58 lead. That came immediately after he missed a pair of free throws but was fouled grabbing the offensive rebound.
“Boxing out on foul shots has been our Achilles heel all year,” the More coach said.

The Knights got 23 points by Basam Bilal, 16 by Ethan Ackom and 10 by Thomas Connolly.

For Calura, this season has been a return to action after missing all of last year due to knee surgery for a torn ACL and meniscus.

“Physically, I’m feeling much better,” Calura said. “The recovery process was super challenging both physically and mentally. But with diligent rehabilitation and proper medical guidance, I’ve made significant progress. I’m grateful to be able to return to what I love to do, but even more grateful for my family friends and doctors who helped me through this.”

Calura’s older brothers Rommel and Cale both played for Brébeuf before joining the Mohawk College Mountaineers – Cale currently as a player and Rommel an assistant coach. Younger brother Cian, plays for the Brébeuf junior squad.

“Raef has a great basketball brain,” Dunphy said. “He’s crafty. He sees the floor very well and knows how to exploit mismatches.

“He’s finally getting more lift from the ground. He’s able to finish through contact because he’s so strong. We’re lucky we have a leader like him on the team.”

Including tournament action, Brébeuf has won 11 of its last 12 starts.

Other quarter-final action saw Cathedral defeat the ACMT Jaguars, 80-19, Tonnos top the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 71-67, and Newman down the St. Mary Crusaders, 64-28.

Photos by Bob Butrym, RFB Sport Photography

More photos on the HWCDSB Athletics Facebook page here