By Larry Moko
The championship plates on the gym wall directly above the Cathedral players’ bench tell a much different story about that school’s history of success in girls’ and boys’ senior basketball.
Cathedral senior boys’ teams have won an impressive 34 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school titles dating back to 1939. In comparison, the gal Gaels have captured top honours just once. That was in 1980.
In recent years however – with Luca Fortino and Paul Taylor coaching both the oldest male and female teams – the Cathedral senior girls are starting to look like contenders. After finishing third in the league standings with a record of 8-4, the Gaels opened the 2019 playoffs Thursday with a 57-40 victory over the visiting Bishop Ryan Celtics.
Cathedral will face the second-place Bishop Tonnos Titans in one semifinal Tuesday while the first-place St. Thomas More Knights take on the fourth-place St. John Henry Newman Cardinals in the other.
“We’ve seen a drastic change over the years with the girls that we’ve been working with,” said Fortino, who began coaching the Cathedral juniors four years ago. “We’re giving really tough games to all the top teams. I think we’ve got a bright future.”
Two of the players who have led the resurgence at Cathedral are Grade 12 students Olive Ude and Olivia Fiorucci. They’ve been teammates for the past four years at Cathedral plus two seasons with the Blessed Sacrament JUEL and JUEL Prep squads. Ude tossed in 15 points and Fiorucci added 10 against the Celtics.
“It means a lot for our school to finally be competitive in senior girls’ basketball again,” Fiorucci said. “And I’m glad to be part of that.”
The Cathedral coach said the duo of Ude and Fiorucci are like “a two-headed monster” on the court because of their skill and experience gained from playing together.
“I’ve seen Olivia grow from Grade 6 or 7 because I coached her in elementary basketball, too,” Fortino said. “Every year she takes a step up.
“And Olive is a naturally great athlete. She’s a joy to watch. You never know what’s going to happen when she’s got the ball in her hands.”
Other top scorers for the Gaels against BR were Kaylor Rosos (14 points) and Kylie Rosos (12).
Said Fiorucci: “I think we played well as a team. We moved the ball on offence and our defence came together well. There was good energy, too.”
The sixth-place Celtics, who trailed 25-5, 41-15 and 51-30 at the quarter breaks, got 19 points by Jessica Grigg – including 13 in the third quarter. Kayla Vanbeek added 11 and Ella Vanturennout had seven.
Fortino said the first-half atmosphere of a large mid-afternoon home crowd inspired the Gaels. “Right from the get go you could tell the energy was there,” he said. “We were just flying. We were all over the floor defensively, getting on loose balls, getting every rebound and pushing the pace.
“And instead of just shooting sporadically we were finding the right play every time down the floor.”
In other quarter-finals, the Bishop Tonnos Titans topped the seventh-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 61-13, and defending-champion Newman downed the fifth-place St. Mary Crusaders, 41-30. More had the opening-round bye.
“We’re in tough next week against Tonnos,” Fortino said. “We beat them once (41-40) and they beat us once (50-39).”
This year’s championship tripleheader – novice, junior and senior – will be held Thursday, Nov. 7 at Cathedral.
Source: Marnie Jadon