By Larry Moko
The enthusiastic crowd at Cathedral High School held its breath when Deanna Mataseje of the Bishop Tonnos Titans launched a potential game-tying shot from half court as the buzzer sounded.
Nothing but net.
Unfortunately for the Titans, the ball only tickled the outside of the strings and the St. Thomas More Knights escaped with a 50-47 victory in the 2019 Hamilton–Wentworth Catholic senior girls’ high school basketball championship.
“They made it exciting,” More guard Trudi Vaughan said. “Bishop Tonnos is a great team.”
The Knights finished first in the regular-season standings with a record of 11-1. Tonnos, at 10-2, was second. And in their two head-to-head meetings, the teams split.
“We lost to them on a buzzer beater the last time we played them,” Vaughan said. “We were hungry for this. We worked hard as a team and finished it off.”
The Knights took a 21-15 lead into the intermission and, early in the fourth quarter, padded their advantage to 13 points. However, an impressive run by Tonnos cut the margin to one point with about 90 seconds remaining.
Kaya Charles of More connected on one of two free-throw attempts with 3.1 seconds left to cap the scoring.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” More coach Tania DiCampli said. “They fought us right to the end. I commend them for their efforts.
“Our girls really showed composure in the last couple of minutes to come out with the win.”
Charles finished with a game-high 20 points. Other leading scorers for the Knights were Jessica Anziano with nine, Julia Chiarot, with eight, and Vaughan, with seven.
Adrianna VanBerkel and Jacqueline Urban tossed in 17 and 14 points, respectively, to pace the Titans.
Said DiCampli: “Kaya hit some clutch 3s tonight. It was great to have her back in the lineup (after sitting out the semifinal with an injury).”
The More coach also praised the defensive efforts of Vaughan and Alisha Doornick in particular.
“This was incredibly special for me,” Vaughan said. “I’m the only Grade 12 player on the team. The last time I won a championship was Grade 9.”
With the victory, the Knights advance to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference AAA semifinals Tuesday against the Halton Catholic champion.
“To cap off the Hamilton season with a win is really great,” Vaughan said. “I think we have a great chance at OFSAA this year. We’re a strong team and we work well together.”
According to DiCampli “team unity” is a reason for More’s success. “In all my years of coaching at STM,” she said, “this is probably the best bonded team that I can say we’ve ever had at either the junior or senior level. They support each other on and off the court. That’s really nice to see.”
Several of the Knights have been playing together since they were seven or eight years old. “So they all have the familiarity of seeing how each other plays on the floor. And they know how to find each other,” DiCampli said.
Other members of the Knights are Natalia Jara, Krissy Cooper, Ashley Rolo, Daully Patterson, Raquel Patterson, Isabella Tehrani and Emily Capretta.
More last won an OFSAA medal (bronze) in 2015.
Source: Marnie Jadon