By Larry Moko, Special to the News
For the first time in the school's 38-year history, Hamilton's Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary has qualified for a berth in the OFSAA boys' basketball championship tournament.
The Cardinals punched their ticket on home court Monday with a convincing 69-42 victory over the Loyola Hawks of Oakville.
A huge roar arose in the Newman post-game dressing room when the players were told by the coaches that the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinal win over Loyola would be enough to get them into the annual provincial showcase event. Newman will still play a GHAC Quad A final on Tuesday -- against the winner between Bishop Tonnos and Holy Trinity -- but it will basically only be for OFSAA seeding purposes.
"We didn't know we were going to qualify for OFSAA right away," said Cardinals guard A. J. Manguera, who tossed in a game-high 18 points.
Manguera says the Cardinals have incentive to defeat the Titans because it would avenge a pair of tournament losses to them earlier this season.
Against the Halton league finalists from Loyola, Newman led only 16-14 at the end of the first quarter. But from that point on, it was no contest. The aggressive Cardinals went on a 14-2 run and, by the intermission, increased the lead to 17 points.
"Their defence gave us a lot of difficulty in the second quarter," Hawks coach Gary Laurin said. "They were getting the ball on the defensive end, moving it in transition and scoring in bunches. Really quickly. Within two minutes it went from a three or four-point game to a 20-point game.
"You try to call time out to stop the bleeding, but defensively they really overpowered us."
By the end of the third quarter, the Cardinals lead had increased to 54-33.
Newman, which last week captured the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association title with a 49-38 decision over the ACMT Jaguars at McMaster, is currently undefeated in 18 starts.
"When our guys commit to the defensive end, it changes the whole complexion of our team," Cardinals coach Andrew Sergi said. "We just play with a different attitude.
Our defence gives us flow and opportunities on the offensive end."
Numerous steals and easy fast-break layup baskets highlighted Newman's uprising.
Newman's other leading scorers were Jake Marquette, with 11 points, and Luiggy Moquette-Diaz, with 10. Juwon Goldson, Phil Gillen and Daniel Petermann chipped in with six apiece.
Daryl Jean and Jake Babic paced the Hawks with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Offensively, the Cardinals again excelled with long-range shooting. Manguera was particularly deadly, scoring all of his 18 points by way of three-point shots.
"He's been a great shooter for the three years he's been with us," Sergi said of Manguera. "But he's been more consistent this year. He's worked harder at his game. His movement to get open is what has made him a better shooter. Before, we had to get him his shot. Now, through movement and reading screens, he's able to get his shots off a lot better."
One of the three-pointers Manguera drained was a real rainbow from the corner.
Manguera, incidentally, says A.J. stands for Angelo Joseph. "My first name is actually Joseph," Manguera said. "It's supposed to by J.A., but when I grew up it sounded weird so I switched it around."
Laurin says he thinks Newman stacks up with the province's best teams at OFSAA. He likes the Cardinals chances because of their shutdown defensive abilities.
"That rim is going to get tight at times," Laurin said. "And when it does, there's nothing you can do about it. It is what it is, you've got to be able to defend."