By Larry Moko
It’s the first championship of any kind for the ‘new’ Newman.
The St. John Henry Newman Cardinals defeated the St. Thomas More Knights 48-40 Thursday at the Cathedral gym to capture the 2019 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic junior girls’ high school basketball title.
That marks the first sports trophy for the Stoney Creek secondary school since officially changing its name from Cardinal Newman to St. John Henry Newman last month.
Pope Francis canonized John Henry Newman on Oct. 13 in St. Peter’s Square.
“The last championship for Newman in junior was 1983,” Cardinals coach Vanessa Casuccio said with pride.
First-place Newman was 11-1 during the regular schedule. It then topped the Cathedral Gaels, 46-29, in one semifinal while second-place More (9-3) downed the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 54-40, in the other.
“We beat More once during the season and they beat us once but it was by a lot more,” the Cardinals coach said. “We were definitely ready to play them this time. We worked really hard at practice leading up to it. We focused on their key players and how to defend them. Our grittiness matched the other team’s aggressiveness.”
The outcome snapped a run of five consecutive junior girls’ league championships for More.
Emi Vlatkovic of Newman was the top scorer in the final with 20 points. She also pulled down 10 rebounds, blocked a shot and made several steals.
“Emi is the most athletic player I’ve seen come through girls’ basketball at any level (novice, junior or senior) in a long time,” Casuccio said. “She does everything and she’s only in Grade 9. That’s what makes it really special.”
Victoria Mazzocato and Mia Persia added 10 apiece for the Cardinals.
Tessa MacLeod replied with 18 points for More, while Chiara Genovese and Kenzie McFedries each had six.
With the score 24-22 in Newman’s favour at the half, the Cardinals went on a 9-0 run to open the third quarter and a 6-0 run to end the third.
“They have a couple of really talented players and they certainly took advantage of us being weak on the boards,” More coach Taylor Chiarot said. “They capitalized on the second chances we gave them. We didn’t box out or keep them off the boards. And a lot of the shots that normally go in weren’t dropping for us.”
Other Newman players included Judeny Belizaire, Adele DiGregorio, Olivia Gamble, Emily Gillen, Alissa Guagliamo, Daniella Gubekjian, Alyssa Johnson and Sofia Mauricio.
“Defence always wins the game,” said Vlatkovic, who also plays for the Blessed Sacrament JUEL Prep team. “We were definitely confident coming in. We knew what wanted and we got it.”
Source: Marnie Jadon