By Larry Moko
A three-point play with 17 seconds remaining by Brendan Morris proved to be pivotal as the visiting St. Mary Crusaders advanced to the second round of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior boys’ high school basketball playoffs.
St. Mary, which finished fifth in the regular-season standings, defeated the fourth-place St. Thomas More Knights, 47-45, Tuesday.
Other quarter-finals saw the third-place Bishop Tonnos Titans top the sixth-place Bishop Ryan Celtics, 57-43, and the second-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves down the seventh-place St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, 58-36.
The undefeated Cathedral Gaels, who received an opening-round bye for finishing first, will return to action Thursday in a semifinal against St. Mary. Also on Thursday, the Titans face the Braves at Brebeuf.
“It was a hard-fought win,” Crusaders coach Andrew Mallon said. “We compete. They went on a couple of runs against us today but we’re strong-willed. We’re mentally tough. We came back and took care of business.”
Morris and Will Oliver, who each scored 14 points on the night, combined for the final field goal of the contest when the Crusaders trailed, 45-43. Oliver gathered in an offensive rebound and fed a short pass to Morris for the basket. Morris was also fouled on the play. He missed the free throw but sank a second opportunity from the charity stripe when a lane violation was called against More.
“It was a great pass by Will and I had an easy finish,” Morris said.
“The crowd was loud. We embraced it and used it to our strengths.”
John Lillis added another free throw for the Crusaders and Oliver blocked a shot with two seconds left to seal the outcome. One last three-point attempt by More sailed wide of the mark.
Carter Sabourin was the other leading scorer for St. Mary with 10 points.
More got a game-high 20 points by Zivon Mlongho. Included was his jump shot from an inbounds pass with 39 seconds left which put the Knights in front, 45-43.
“All credit to them,” More coach Josh Sheriff said. “I’m proud of our guys. We competed the entire game. We were in a good position at the end and could have come out with the win.”
More won both games against the Crusaders during the regular schedule. Said Mallon: “We played them really tough here the first time. I thought we were evenly-matched. Both are good defensive teams.”
The victories by the two-time defending champions from Cathedral over St. Mary during the regular season were by scores of 86-48 and 79-50. “We’ll be ready for them,” Mallon said. “I believe we’re a better team now than when we played them the last time.”
Brebeuf also swept its season series from Tonnos, 62-54 and 64-61.
Source: Marnie Jadon