Vukojev leads Thunder past Mustangs
With the game on the line Wednesday afternoon, the Blessed Trinity Thunder turned to Maggie Vukojev.
With the Thunder holding a slim 36-33 lead over the visiting Saint Michael Mustangs in the fourth quarter of Niagara Catholic Athletic Association play, the Grade 11 student scored five straight points to help her team hang on to a 45-40 victory.
The 5-foot-9 guard would finish with a team-high 21 points.
“I definitely want the ball in her hands as much as possible,” Blessed Trinity head coach Gabe Diadamo said. “Maggie is a great player with an excellent work ethic. She loves to score, she loves to play and she loves to be involved with her team. She is definitely the centre point of our team in terms of leadership and talent.”
He feels Vukojev’s next steps as a player are to continue to mature and be more of a leader.
“I really want her to take that next step in a leadership role and when she does that, the game is all going to fall into place for her.”
The 16-year-old already has an extensive basketball resume. She started playing when she was seven years old and has suited up with the Hamilton Transway program for most of her career with the exception of a few years with the Niagara Juel program.
“I play AAU in the summer, I have training all winter and I play all year round.”
After a summer of AAU ball with the Kia Nurse Elite team, Vukojev will be suiting up for the Transway Juel squad this travel season.
“My game is good but I feel I can develop more defensively and get a little bit more aggressive. I think that is what this season is for and I am really going to work towards that.”
Her role with the Thunder is simple.
“I am a leader on the court. I like to pass the ball, be a playmaker and be the most unselfish player I can be but I know when I need to score and when I need to get involved.”
Her time to be a little selfish comes when the Thunder needs someone to take charge of the game.
“When things are going wrong, I try to take control and slow the game down.”
She enjoys being a part of Thunder basketball.
“High school basketball is really important to me, especially because school spirit matters a lot to me. And I like to play with girls who I don’t get to play with in the summer. It is also a lot of extra practise which l like.”
She has lofty goals for her sport.
“I am hoping to get a scholarship and play Division 1.”
Blessed Trinity improved to 3-1 with the win while Saint Michael dropped to 1-4 with the loss.
Diadamo started five Grade 9s and used them liberally until the game got tense at the end.
“It was nice that we are able to do that but I thought it was a little too messy to my liking. A win is a win for me sometimes and that’s what we managed to pull out. I am happy.”
He feels his squad has had an up-and-down season to date.
“We are still working on a lot of things. Every game brings up a new challenge. We figure things out and we play well at some points and then new challenges come up. We are just going to have to work on each new step at every practice and take things as they come.”
Saint Michael coach Eric Germano was pleased with the Mustangs’ performance Wednesday.
“It is always good to stay in the game, fight and play hard. That is what we are trying to teach them,” he said. “We have a young team so it is our motto to keep on playing hard and playing with tenacity.”
Germano describes the Mustangs’ season as a work in progress.
“We are always trying to push on, learn the system and teach everybody the system for the progression of the sport in the school.”
Thunder 45 Mustangs 40
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: Saint Michael’s Jaime Manlow with 29 points.
For the Blessed Trinity Thunder: Maggie Vukojev 21; Brianna Davis 8; Maria DiFlavio 5; Nadia Talukdar 4; Kella Montgomery 2; Caroline Heatherton 2; Allana Meester 2; Raffaella DiMarcantonio 1.
For the Saint Michael Mustangs: Manlow 29; Layla Hall 3; Mya Pasto 3; Ava Baillie-Pendzinski 2; Olivia LaRose 2; Brianna DeMarchi 1.