By Larry Moko
Cardinal Newman’s senior girls’ high school basketball team went undefeated during the regular season when it played for the most part without the services of one of its top players.
Renata Djuravcevic, who was sidelined due to injury for the first eight games, recently returned to action. And Monday, against the visitors from Cathedral, the talented guard scored 13 points during Newman’s 52-33 semifinal playoff victory over the Gaels.
That outcome advances the Cardinals to the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association championship against the St. Thomas More Knights. The final is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at McMaster University.
“Sadly, I haven’t played a lot,” said Djuravcevic, who last season was a key member of the Newman squad that captured an OFSAA silver medal at the Triple A level.
“I broke the metatarsal of my second toe when a friend’s car ran over my foot. They obviously didn’t mean it.
“I was hurt probably the last week of summer. I didn’t do anything for a least a month. Literally, nothing at all. Then, after a month, I went to a specialist and he said you’re 95 %, you can start getting into it.”
Ironically, Djuravcevic plans to study medicine and later this month will accept a soccer scholarship off from Wagner College on Staten Island, N.Y.
“Renata means a whole bunch to us,” Newman coach Roy Milutinovic said. “She was one of our best players last year. We’ve got some of our depth back now because Kirsten (Badzioch), who was a starter for eight or nine games, is out for the season.”
First-place Newman (12-0) received an opening-round bye in the playoffs. Fourth-place Cathedral (7-5) was coming off a 55-49 quarter-final victory over the St. Mary Crusaders.
Tatyanna Burke finished with a game-high 14 points for the Cardinals while teammates Katumina Mansaray and Jessica Paolini tossed in nine apiece.
“We moved the ball on offence,” Milutinovic said. “Our press worked and we got a lot of turnovers.”
The Cardinals coach also praised the performance of Paolini for her rebounding and defence.
“She’s one of the biggest players in the league,” he said. “She was fantastic for us today.”
Olive Ude paced the Gaels attack with 13 points. Nina Rajczak added five and Alaica Miniano and Olivia Fiorucci contributed four each.
Newman held quarter leads of 23-10, 34-18 and 48-26.
“They are a well-oiled machine,” Cathedral coach Luca Fortino said of the Cardinals. “We knew it would be a challenge. They are very talented and very well coached. They look ready to win OFSAA this year, not just come second.”
Earlier this season Cathedral won a pair of tournaments – the Rimrocker in Mississauga and Cathedral’s Blue and White. And the MVP selection at both of those events was Ude.
“Olive has had an outstanding season,” Fortino said. “She averaged over 20 points at all four tournaments. She just keeps getting better.”
Born in Nigeria, Ude spent most of her life in Japan before coming to Canada three years ago. At the time, she only knew how to speak and write Japanese.
“The language barrier was tough for her,” the Gaels coach said. “But in a matter of three years I’ve seen her go from not being able to understand what we’re saying on the sidelines to being a leader on the floor. She’s strong with the language now as a student/athlete.”
In addition to the Newman vs. More senior championship game on Wednesday, there will be HWCAA midget and junior title contests. The opponents, in both, with be More and the Bishop Ryan Celtics. The opener of the tripleheader (midgets) tips off at 3:30 p.m., followed by the juniors at 5:30 p.m.
Source: Marnie Jadon