Fighting Irish, Thunder win zone AAA hoop titles
There will be no secrets in Thursday’s opening game of Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior AAA girls basketball championships at Blessed Trinity.
Host Blessed Trinity, the Zone 4 champion, will meet Zone 3 and Niagara Catholic Athletic Association champion Notre Dame for the third time this season at 9 a.m.
“They are a good team and they’re probably the best team we have played all season long,” Thunder head coach John DiPasquale said. “They’re super balanced and we have to shut down their three-point shooting and deal with the fact that they like to spread out on offence and we have to deal with their post play.
“Their post play is the best we have seen all year.”
Notre Dame presses team relentlessly and has defensive intensity but DiPasquale’s squad, despite starting three Grade 10s, a Grade 9 and a Grade 11, handles pressure well.
“Clearly they are the favourites Thursday,” he said. “They are well-coached and the kids are well-drilled.”
The Thunder have lost twice on the road to Notre Dame and are hoping home court will help.
“We are hoping to get some kids in the gym and it’s a nice way to showcase the hard work that the kids have done,” DiPasquale said.
Notre Dame coach Vince Barbatano expects a good game from the Thunder.
“Now we will be on the road and that will be a little bit of a challenge assuming there will have some fans” he said. “I think if we play. the way we have been playing the last four or five games, we should be OK.”
The Thunder enter the game with an overall record of 16-6 and will only lose one or two players to graduation.
“The kids are super dedicated,” DiPasquale said. “We have 15 kids on the roster and they are always there and they work hard.”
Given the youth on both squads, the two teams could be battling each other in important games for years to come.
“I’m glad that they won and I am looking forward to playing them,” DiPasquale said. “They’ve beaten us fair and square and there’s no bad blood or animosity.
“We are only going to get better playing against these teams.”
Blessed Trinity won the Zone 4 title Monday with a 51-43 victory over the Denis Morris Reds.
The Thunder was led by Ella Muraca (20), Maddie O’Brien (11) and Mia DiPasquale (8). Top scorers for the Reds were Emily White (12), Jordyn Britton (10) and Dani Orlando (7).
Notre Dame advanced to the SOSSA semifinals with a 66-51 victory over the A.N.Myer Marauders, the Zone 3 public champions.
Notre Dame grabbed an early 7-2 lead, Myer tied it up and then the Irish went into the half leading by seven. The Marauders then went on a 7-0 run to tie the game before the Irish went back on top and never looked back.
“After a two-minute span in the second half, we were good to go,” Barbatano said.
Top scorers for the Irish were Jamiera Rousseau (19), Chloe Peters (13) and Jessica Ciolfi (13). Top scorers for A.N. Myer were Tori Rigas-DiDomenico (19) and Julia Colavecchia (17).
Denis Morris meets Westdale in the other SOSSA semifinal at 10:30 a.m. with the final scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Barbatano thinks Westdale will be a strong contender at SOSSA.
“They are really good,” he said. “The Hamilton winners are always hard to play against.”
Notre Dame has lost the last two SOSSA finals to Churchill and Waterdown.
“Hopefully the third time is the charm,” he said.
The Fighting Irish will go into SOSSA with an overall record of 35-3, including tournament victories at the Notre Dame, St. Francis and Welland Tribune tournaments. They also came second at the St. Mary’s tournament in Hamilton.