By Larry Moko
Forward Kaya Charles tossed in a dramatic deciding basket with 3.7 seconds left on the clock to cap an impressive comeback for the St. Thomas More Knights in senior girls’ high school playoff basketball action.
Trailing for most of the night – by as many as 19 in the second quarter and 14 at the half – the Knights rallied to defeat the visiting Bishop Tonnos Titans, 42-40, in a Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league semifinal Monday.
With the win, More advances to the HWCAA title game on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at McMaster University against the defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals.
“There was a lot of pressure,” said Charles, a Grade 10 student who finished with seven points.
“It was good teamwork. If Emily (Capretta) hadn’t passed me the ball, we wouldn’t have got that.”
Said More coach, Ralph Bozzo: “Kaya was alone underneath the basket and Emily found her down low. She did a spin move and the shot fell.”
Second-place More (10-2) trailed 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and 31-14 at the intermission against third-place Tonnos (7-5). The Titans were hustling on defence, making their shots and were full value for the lead.
“We were very surprised they came out like they did because we beat them by 10 and 13 points when we played them (during the regular schedule),” Charles said.
The Knights finally pulled even at 35s when Charles scored on a scoop layup with two minutes, 22 seconds left. More then built a five-point lead of its own on a three-point basket by Alliasen Miscione plus two successful free throws by Charles.
The determined Tonnos squad fought back, however. It got two layup baskets by Deanna Mataseje and a free throw by Alexa Fama to set the stage for Charles’ heroics.
Emilie Calabrese scored a team-high eight points for More. Miscione contributed seven points while Capretta and Trudi Vaughan chipped in with six apiece.
The Titans got a game-high 11 points by Mataseje. Alexandra Urban and Julia DiFederico added nine and eight points, respectively.
“I told them to chip away at the lead,” Bozzo said of his halftime instructions. “I said ‘let’s cut it in half by the end of the third quarter.’”
The Knights did better than that, though. They shut out the Titans during the third quarter and trailed by only three points entering the final quarter.
“Our girls were very hungry,” Bozzo said. “We have a veteran squad. We have six Grade 12s on the team that have been to the championship before in their high school career.
“They know what it took to get there. They know that quitting was never an option.
“The veterans really led the young ones in that second half. They dictated the way the game went with their defence and, offensively, we chipped away until we made it a game. It was an overall team effort, but veteran leadership propelled us to the win.”
Recent quarter-final results were: More 53 Bishop Ryan 11; Cathedral 55 St. Mary 49; Bishop Tonnos 69 St. Jean de Brebeuf 24.
Source: Marnie Jadon