By Larry Moko
Cardinal Newman Cardinals’ basketball coach Andrew Sergi sensed that a comeback against the Cathedral Gaels just wasn’t going to be in the cards.
Trailing 52-40 after three quarters Tuesday, Newman opened the fourth with a quick three-point basket by Harnoor Dhaliwal. And the mini-rally continued when Cathedral turned the ball over on its next possession.
The visiting Gaels maintained their composure, however, and went on to a convincing 75-50 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior boys’ high school victory.
“It’s hard for that (momentum) to last when the team you’re playing against is playing with purpose and with energy,” Sergi said. “They just played harder than us. You can just sense sometimes with a team whether you have it or you don’t. I think we got what we deserved. They played much better than us tonight.”
Every time the Cardinals would close the gap the defending-champion Gaels replied with a flurry of points.
“No matter what we did they always had a response to our runs,” Sergi said. “I told our kids that every team … in the NBA, NCAA or CIS … goes through a game like this. It happens. I don’t think that’s how much of a difference there is between these two teams.”
The victory was the sixth in seven starts for Cathedral, which shares first place with the St. Thomas More Knights. It also gave Cathedral a sweep of the season series against Newman (71-64 was the first result). In other action, the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves topped the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 78-51, and the Knights downed the St. Mary Crusaders, 54-45.
Cathedral got a game-high 20 points by Nathan Bilamu. Malcolm Maganda contributed 13, while Taylor Thomas tossed in 10 points and Kionte Collins added nine.
Dhaliwal netted 13 points for the fourth-place Cardinals and Dezayne Mingo chipped in with 12.
Cathedral scored 11 unanswered points during a third-quarter stretch to take a 45-29 lead.
“Coming off the Christmas break we’re really keyed on hard defence and defensive intensity,” Gaels coach Luca Fortino said. “At all times you’ve got to stay in the game mentally. It doesn’t matter whether you’re up or down by two or 10. The game can change at the drop of a hat. The guys kept their heads in it for 32 minutes tonight. That was a complete game. I’m very pleased with how hard we worked.”
In particular, Fortino praised the defensive efforts of Maganda and Eden Otshudi. “We had to shut down a great guard, No. 13 (Mingo). “Those two guys played outstanding.”
The Cathedral coach said Grade 12 student Maganda has really come into his own over the last two months. “Before, he was a floor general, a distributor of the ball and a calming influence,” Fortino said. “Now, he’s starting to become more of an offensive threat. He can get to the rim and shoot the 3. He’s rounding out his game.”
Maganda says Cathedral’s goal is to capture a gold medal at the OFSAA Triple A championship tournament in a few months. “We came third last year and we honestly should have won it,” he said. “This team is better and smarter.”