By Larry Moko
A surprise team has advanced to the semifinal round of the 42nd-annual Father Kennedy Memorial junior boys’ high school basketball tournament.
It’s the Bishop Tonnos Titans, who are 0-10 in Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league play thus far this season.
Tonnos ended its losing streak, however, by scoring two victories on opening day of the 16-team Catholic invitational event that the school co-hosts along with the St. Thomas More. The Titans upset the St. Marguerite d’Youville Panthers of Mississauga, 67-59, and followed that up with a 59-51 decision over Kitchener’s Resurrection Phoenix.
The Titans will face Hamilton’s Cathedral Gaels Saturday morning in one of the semifinals, while the Burlington Assumption Crusaders take on the defending champion St. Martin Mustangs of Mississauga in the other. The overall championship tips off at 2:30 p.m. at the More gym.
“This has been a really good tournament for us,” Tonnos coach Mike Di Federico said. “We’re happy. We had a buyout game (against d’Youville) and our gym was packed.”
Organizers rated d’Youville as a strong challenger for the tournament title but, against Tonnos, the Panthers were admittedly missing some key players.
“We got lucky,” Di Federico said. “One player who showed up for their second game was a pretty spectacular athlete.
“We shot the ball really well, though. One of our Grade 9 kids, Nick Galli, hit four 3s (finishing with 16 points).”
Galli added 14 against the Kitchener representatives.
“Against Resurrection,” Di Federico said, “it was really a tale of two halves. We were up pretty good and then just hung on in the second half. Offensively, we turned the ball over way too much.”
Cathedral earned its semifinal berth with wins over the Father Goetz Gators of Mississauga (100-53) and Milton’s Bishop Reding Royals (85-74).
Trailing by seven points, Cathedral went on a 13-0 run to close out the third quarter with a 60-56 lead. Reding cut the margin to one point in the fourth before the Gaels pulled away again with a 16-4 blitz.
Jordan Truelove sparked the Gaels with 29 points. Noah Otshudi (who had 33 in the opening game) netted 19, while Jacob Flynn and Bilal Bilal chipped in with 10 and 11 points, respectively.
“We were a little complacent in the first half of our second game,” Cathedral coach Matt Gravino said. “We talked to the players at the half and kind of challenged them to step up their game and be more aggressive. We played better defence in the half court and ultimately that’s what led to the win.”
The Gaels (10-1) are currently tied in points for first place in the HWCAA with the St. Mary Crusaders.
“I like the athleticism we have on this team,” Gravino said. “We have a killer mentality in terms of the way we apply the press and the way we attack the basket.”
In other action involving HWCAA teams, the St. Thomas More Knights topped the Brantford Assumption Lions, 62-46, before losing, 49-36, to Burlington Assumption.
The St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves also split – winning, 76-41, over St. Catharines’ St. Francis Phoenix and falling, 63-60, to St. Martin.
Consolation semifinals match Toronto St. Michael College Blues against St. Francis and d’Youville against Grimsby’s Blessed Trinity Titans. The consolation final is scheduled for 1 p.m. at St. Thomas More.