By Larry Moko
Win-loss records can be deceiving.
Take, for example, the one belonging to the Bishop Tonnos senior boys’ high school basketball team. The Titans finished sixth in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league standings this season, winning four and losing eight. But on opening night of the playoffs Monday, Tonnos travelled to the St. Jean de Brebeuf gym and upset the defending-champion Braves, 58-57.
“It feels great,” Tonnos coach Steve Maga said. “Finally our guys got a positive result. I thought we deserved a few more during the year. We lost six games by eight points or less.
“So to come out on the right side of it was special. And especially because it was a playoff.”
In semifinal action Wednesday, Tonnos will face the undefeated Cardinals at Cardinal Newman while the second-place Cathedral Gaels (8-4) play host to the fourth-place St. Thomas More Knights (6-6). Cathedral punched its ticket with a 70-51 quarter-final victory over the seventh-place St. Mary Crusaders, while More earned its berth by topping the fifth-place Bishop Ryan Celtics (5-7), 55-49.
Cardinal Newman received an opening-round playoff bye for finishing first.
The Titans put together an outstanding first quarter, building a 24-9 lead. The Braves battled back impressively, however, grabbing a four-point lead (57-53) late in the fourth quarter when Steven Lemay took the ball hard to the rim for a basket.
Tonnos’s Jack Kyprianou, who finished with 17 points, then nailed a three-point shot to cut the margin to one with 14 seconds to play and point guard Blake Anderson gave BT the victory on a dribble-drive layup with 2.9 seconds left.
Both teams went 0-for-2 from the charity stripe in the final minute.
“There was no set play,” Anderson said of the winning shot. “Just read and react. Kind of a normal screen. There was an opening and I took it.”
Anderson led all scorers with 21 points. Dustin Cordeiro also finished in double figures for the Titans with 13 points, including 6-of-6 from the foul line.
Brebeuf got 18 points by Lemay, 12 by centre Anthony Bradshaw, eight by Terrance Lennox and seven by Cale Calura.
“The first quarter was big,” said Maga, who watched his team score the game’s first 10 points and then pad the lead to 17 at one point in the opening eight minutes. “We couldn’t have predicted a better start for us. A lot of guys were hitting shots and playing good quality defence.
“They are defending champs so we knew they were going to storm back. And they did. We made enough shots early and hung on late.”
Brebeuf came into the contest with a 7-5 record, including two decisions over Tonnos – 80-56 and 67-59.
Said Anderson: “We scored 24 points in the first quarter and that gave us confidence. And we rebounded really well. Usually we struggle with that.”
At St. Thomas More, the Knights got 18 points by Sami Jahan, 17 by Diar Abdul Allah and 12 by Efosa Omorogbe. Will Dorelien replied with 17 for the Celtics.
Early foul trouble to two of More’s starters meant they sat on the bench for extended periods. The pair scored a combined 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“I really have to commend our bench players,” More coach Mark Moretuzzo said. “That was the difference. We had 10 or 11 guys contribute.
“Sami sat for more than half of the game.”
The opener of the playoff tripleheader saw Cathedral build a 41-28 halftime lead and then coast to victory. Michael Ssemanda, who is headed to Buffalo’s Canisius College on a baseball scholarship next summer, sparked the Gaels with 27 points. And, on a few occasions when St. Mary put together third quarter runs, a Ssemanda basket from the outside prevented any comeback. He ended up with 10 third-quarter points.
Senior guards Bardhi Popaj and Zanyah Jones added 15 and 10 points respectively for Cathedral.
The top scorers for St. Mary were Nick Hamilton (19), Jordan Robinson (12) and Juan Mejia (10).
Six of Cathedral’s eight first-quarter baskets were from three point range.
Source: Marnie Jadon