By Larry Moko
The Cathedral Gaels came to life in the second half Monday and earned a berth to the 2018 provincial boys’ AAA high school basketball tournament.
Trailing by 11 points at the intermission of the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Association final in Oakville, the Gaels got up and running in time to defeat Holy Trinity 55-47 at the Titans home gym.
With the victory, Cathedral qualifies to represent the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league at the annual OFSAA showcase competition March 5-7 in Windsor.
“In the first half, it looked like we were going through the motions,” Gaels coach Luca Fortino said. “We didn’t have any energy.”
By the end of the first quarter, Cathedral had scored only five points. And by the half, the HWCAA champions had only put 15 on the scoreboard.
“We stepped up the defensive intensity,” Fortino said. “That woke us up. Everything seemed to be flowing better for us in the second half.”
Nathan Bilamu paced the Cathedral attack with 21 points. Kiante Collins contributed 16 and Malcom Maganda chipped in with seven fourth-quarter points.
Anthony Briscoe replied with 11 points for the Halton representatives.
“They had a great game plan and our shots weren’t falling,” Fortino said of Holy Trinity’s success in the first two quarters.
Cathedral, which responded with 11 unanswered points to begin the second half, took a 29-28 lead when Collins got an offensive rebounded and turned it into a three-point play.
The teams then traded the lead until Bilamu’s second three-point basket of the final quarter gave the visitors some breathing room – 49-41 – with 51 seconds remaining.
“Our trap and press that we threw at them in the second half gave them a bit of trouble,” the Gaels coach said.
One of the players Fortino centered out for praised was Collins, a 6-foot forward.
“He outworks everybody on the floor almost every single game,” Fortino said. “I’ve never seen anybody work so hard on a basketball floor – rebounding, defensive instensity … He’s very strong. I love watching him play.”
Collins’ cousin (Kareem) formerly starred at Cathedral and this season played university basketball for the McMaster Marauders.
“It was our defensive mind set,” Collins said. “We played defence as hard as we could and stopped them. My main part on this team is defensive rebounding and help defence.”
Fortino and Paul Taylor combined to guide the Gaels to HWCAA junior title last season before they both stepped up to the senior ranks. Said Fortino: “Coming into this season I thought we would be a really competitive team that had a chance to go to OFSAA. To get there is a great achievement.”
Only Zanyah Jones and Shawn Mattan off the current roster won’t be eligible to return to the Gaels next season.
“With the amount of talent we have coming up from junior (champions again), we’re going to have a great team for years to come,” Fortino said. “Every year when you coach at Cathedral you sort of have that expectation to compete at the highest level.”
Holy Trinity was coming off Halton playoff victories over St. Thomas Aquinas (67-40) and Iroquois Ridge (68-54). Cathedral’s most recent win was over the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves (59-50) in the HWCAA final.
Source: Marnie Jadon