By Larry Moko
The undefeated Cathedral Gaels went on an 18-2 run to end the second quarter en route to their eighth consecutive victory in Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior boys’ high school basketball Thursday.
The visiting Gaels remained in sole possession of first place with a 79-64 decision over the second-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves (6-2).
The first time the Braves and Gaels played each other this season, Cathedral won by six points on Nov. 26.
Cathedral led the rematch by one point at the end of the first quarter before outscoring the Braves 21-6 in the second quarter.
“That was the game,” Brebeuf coach Jae Dunphy said of the Gaels domination of the eight minutes before halftime. “Had we not dug ourselves that hole we might have been there at the end.”
The two-time defending league champions from Cathedral led 39-23 at the intermission and 53-36 at three quarters.
Bishop Harris tossed in a game-high 23 points for the Gaels. Cathedral also got 16 points by Javon Joseph, 13 by Malcolm Maganda and 10 by Josh Coward.
The top scorers for Brebeuf were Cale Calura (18), Joshua Omojafo (16) and Omeechi Williams (15).
Defensive prowess helped the Gaels to pull away on the scoreboard.
“We work really hard at practice on defensive positioning, defensive intensity and rebound positioning,” Cathedral coach Luca Fortino said. “With that intensity in the second quarter it extended the lead to 16 points at the half. That was basically our cushion for the rest of the game.”
According to Fortino, different players stepped up in different quarters for the Gaels. “That’s what you need to do if you want to be a top-level team,” he said.
Cathedral was coming off a 90-67 loss last weekend to Pickering’s Pine Ridge Pumas – the two-time defending OFSAA gold medalists — in the championship game of Orillia’s 75th Blackball tournament.
“They don’t let up defensively,” Fortino said of the Pumas. “They’re relentless. They trap and their defensive pressure is outstanding. We saw a different level of intensity in that game. When they play man-to-man defense they are never off you more than a foot or two. They are right next to you.
“We know we’ve got to improve if we play them again.”
The Braves were hoping to pick up some tips about how to defeat Cathedral when they viewed the Gaels vs. Pumas contest.
“We watched the game live stream,” Dunphy said. “We thought we could emulate some of what (Pine Ridge) did. We didn’t quite execute it as well as Pine Ridge, though. It’s hard to scout a team like Cathedral. They know how to play basketball, react and read.”
Cathedral heads into the Christmas break with a 21-2 overall record. Brebeuf – champion of the recent Tom Heslip Memorial tournament in Guelph – has a 14-5 mark.
“Cathedral has had our number for a while,” Dunphy said. “They are the champions until they are not. We have to learn to respect them but not fear them.”
Other HWCAA senior basketball action Thursday saw the Bishop Tonnos Titans top the ACMT Jaguars, 69-45, the Bishop Ryan Celtics defeat the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, 77-53, and the St. Thomas More Knights down the St. Mary Crusaders, 57-49.
Source: Marnie Jadon