Knights enter OFSAA ‘AAA’ tournament as No. 1 seed; Crusaders vie for provincial ‘AA’ title

By Larry Moko

Seedings for the 2019 OFSAA girls’ high school basketball championships are a tip off about the quality of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league.

At the AAA level in Ontario, organizers currently regard the St. Thomas More Knights as the No. 1 seed. That 16-team tournament runs Nov. 21-23 in Mississauga.

The St. Mary Crusaders were also installed as a fifth seed for the provincial AA tournament in Kingsville. It involves 20 teams and also begins Thursday.

“It shows how competitive the Hamilton Catholic league is,” Crusaders coach Ashley Randall said of seedings for both OFSAA events. “We’re prepared to compete. I’m happy where we got ranked. We have a really good chance.

“It will be about our girls playing the way we can and not being scared.”

St. Mary captured a bronze medal at OFSAA last year in London. The Crusaders lineup includes four returnees and, according to Randall, the team should benefit from its experience: “It was a great opportunity for me to go there last year as a first-year senior head coach,” she said. “And for the girls, they know what it takes. Every game is challenging.”

After dropping a 41-30 HWCAA quarter-final playoff decision to the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals (last year’s OFSAA silver medalists in AAA), the Crusaders charged to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference championship against AA schools. St. Mary scored a pair of GHAC victories — 45-42 victory over King’s Christian and 54-34 over the T.A. Blakelock Tigers.
“The game against King’s Christian was very tight,” Randall said. “We hit a 3-point shot to win it.”

St. Mary’s first opponent in Kingsville will be the 15th seeded Superior Heights Steelhawks of Sault. Ste. Marie. The St. Mary roster includes Ryana Ciccarelli, Myra Ciccarelli, Alexa Weber, Emma Weber, Kennedy Couture, Clare Velhuis and Julia Caravaggio.

As for the HWCAA champions from St. Thomas More, they will play twice on Thursday, including the 9 a.m. opener at Rick Hansen Secondary School against the 11th-seeded Brantford St. John’s Eagles.

“We are very excited to be ranked as the number one seed,” More coach Tania DiCampli said. “With our overall record of 30-1, we definitely hoped it would give us a good seeding, and they did.”

According to DiCampli, More has already faced about half the teams – including Brantford St. John’s — at earlier tournaments this season.

The Knights competed in three previous tournaments, winning them all. Two of those championship victories were against the Westdale Warriors while the other was at the expense of Ottawa’s Glebe Gryphons. Westdale is ranked No. 2 for OFSAA and Glebe is No. 3.

“It is definitely going to be a tough tournament, as it’s for a provincial title,” DiCampli said. “Teams will be hungry to win. We anticipate a lot of intense basketball throughout. The girls have been preparing for this all season, so now they just need to keep continuing to play to thier potential and hope for the best.”

After topping the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 50-47, for the HWCAA championship, the Knights downed the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders, 53-32, and the Hayden Huskies, 54-32, to earn the GHAC crown.

The More roster is comprised of Trudi Vaughan, Natalia Jara, Jessica Anziano, Kristine Cooper, Ashley Rolo, Julia Chiarot, Daully Patterson, Raquel DiPietro, Alisha Doornick, Isabella Tehrani, Emily Capretta and Kaya Charles.

Source: Marnie Jadon

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