By Larry Moko
A new-look defensive strategy helped the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals snap a two-game losing streak in senior boys’ high school basketball and head into the two-week exam break on a positive note.
“We put in a different defence for today,” Newman coach Roy Milutinovic said following the Cardinals 50-48 victory over the visiting Bishop Tonnos Titans Thursday. “It was something fresh for the boys. They haven’t seen it all year.”
The win was only the third in 12 starts for Newman, while Tonnos’s Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league record slipped to 7-5.
“It maybe threw (Tonnos) off before they could figure it out,” Milutinovic said of the new wrinkle which was used along with several other types of defence.
The last time the Titans held the lead was with two minutes, 40 seconds remaining – 46-43 — when Christian Barone went to the foul line and sank all three of his free-throw attempts.
Nate Cusimano then tied the score with a shot from behind the arc and Larenz Bratina drained two foul shots to put Newman ahead, 48-46.
Daniel Clarke, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound Grade 11 forward, accounted for what proved to be the winning basket, taking an entry pass and going strong to the hoop with 58 seconds left. And after Tonnos capped the scoring by connecting on two-of-four from the charity stripe, Clarke denied a layup attempt in the final seconds.
The leading scorer for Newman was Alban Pllana with 16. Clarke added 10.
Tonnos got 16 points from Christian Craciun, including eight straight unanswered points when the Titans trailed 29-21 in the third quarter.
“We worked hard as a team,” Clarke said. “We made a new defence which was successful. It really helped against this team.”
Milutinovic said Clarke is one of the biggest players in the league and contributes most effectively with his rebounding and play near the rim.
“At the beginning of the year, he was taking a lot of 3s and his percentages were low,” Milutinovic said. “We showed him those percentages and told him ‘not saying you can’t shoot, but let’s use you inside.’ He went hard to the basket tonight and got some good layups and defensive rebounds.”
Elsewhere in the HWCAA senior league, the Cathedral Gaels defeated the St. Thomas More Knights, 63-51, the St. Mary Crusaders topped the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 63-54, and the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves downed the ACMT Jaguars, 78-28.
“The season as a whole has been disappointing for us,” Milutinovic said. “Last year we made it to the finals. We only have two returning players, so it’s a lot of fresh faces.
“We have a chance to control our destiny with two more games and maybe finish with five wins.”
With each team having two games remaining in the regular season, the standings are: Cathedral 12-0, Brebeuf, 10-2, Tonnos, 7-5, More, 7-5, St. Mary, 5-7, Bishop Ryan, 4-8, Newman, 3-9, ACMT, 0-12.
All teams participate in the quarter-finals, with 1vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5.
Source: Marnie Jadon