On November 23, 2013, the St Thomas More Knights (Hamilton, ON) defeated the Pope John Paul II Panthers (Scarborough, ON) by a score of 73-47, to win the 2013 OFSAA AAAA (4A) Championships that took place in Belle River, ON.
A tremendous standout performance by the Knights’ Kia Nurse, playing in her last high school game, led to a game high 31 points, while leading her team to their third consecutive OFSAA 4A title.
Anyone one looking for drama?
This Championship, gold medal, Provincial final had several in a great way to cap off the season. The two top-ranked schools in the tournament, squaring off for all the marbles. The defending champs against the ‘leaders of the new school’. Physical play drawing blood. Fans receiving warnings, close to getting booted out of the gym. Referees testing the patience of both sides. One team; left for dead, rising from the ashes.
“That was a very fun game for the fans from start to finish,” said Blaize DiSabatino, with her voice hoarse from yelling encouragements. “We got down big at the beginning, and in the end, our team showed a lot of heart and a lot of character.”
The deficit that DiSabatino spoke about was a first Quarter hole that the top seeded Knights’ found themselves in.
Aside from the energetic start to the game by both teams, the drama really intensified less than two full minutes into the game. In looking to set the tone early, Nurse’s aggressive defense led her to picking up her second foul, which forced her to the bench. The call was a huge blow for Nurse, coming off of a 25 point performance in the Semi-Finals against the Pickering Trojans.
That was when the second ranked Panthers looked to take advantage of their golden opportunity.
Pounding the ball inside the paint, Pope John Paul II took advantage of the Knights that were reeling. With Keyira Parkes and Eternati Willock distributing the ball and a lot more free to run their offence, the Panthers made their strike.
Danielle Garven led the Panthers on a run that saw her team build up a sizeable lead. Garven scored many of her 15 first half points to help the Panthers’ start the game off to a 17-4 lead.
To stop the bleeding from getting any worse, DiSabatino had to use a time-out to get her team to look deep within in order to buy some time. She also reminded her team to rely on a skill they have been working on all year: getting stops.
“I told them to believe in themselves and just maintain.”
“At that time it wasn’t about growing a lead. I mean, our main scorer’s sitting on the bench, ” said DiSabatino frankly. “So we just dug deep. Our whole focus all year was just defense, and we just wanted to maintain as best as we could and get ourselves in as little of a hole as possible.”
Despite the many positive outcomes St Thomas More enjoyed throughout the season, the Knights do have some experience in facing adversity. Their Hamilton Catholic rivals, the top ranked seed in the 3A classification, the St Mary’s Crusaders, have had leads on them in games by more than 20 points twice. This was just another deficit they would have to dig themselves out of.
Although Nurse did her team no favors by getting into the early foul trouble and having to hit the bench. To her credit she made a lot better use of her time than pouting or complaining about the refs. And that appeared to provide the energy her team some of the needed to stem the tide of momentum the Panthers were enjoying.
“A lot of grit to get through that with Kia on the bench,” said DiSabatino about her team’s struggles early. “Kia supported her teammates in that role as well.”
“She’s yelling from the bench, the kids are working on the floor. And then when we got her back out there, we just started to gel and just took it from there!”
Cue the return of Kia Nurse.
There are many opinions about Nurse. But, there is one thing that usually isn’t up for debate. When it comes to basketball, it doesn’t matter the situation, she just knows how to win.
And with the gleam in her eye she took to the court in the second quarter and immediately started making an impact on the game.
In that second frame she injected much needed life into her team and scored 11 points. Teammate Abbey Clark added 7 of her total 20 points in that same period.
Clark’s contribution was by no means lost on her coach that spoke glowingly about her play in the game.
“[She] has the potential to do it all out there. She can bang inside and go up strong to the basket. She can shoot the three. She can handle the ball. And most importantly, other than her scoring today, she did a phenomenal job on defence and on getting rebounds against people that were a lot bigger and stronger than she was.”
And with that push, the Knights stunned the crowd when they not only shrunk the gap, they actually took a 30-27 lead at halftime.
However, they weren’t done there.
Nurse came out of the locker room and ensured the lead increased by scoring 13 more points in the third quarter in contrast to the 11 that the entire Panthers team could muster. The momentum was now firmly with the defending champion Hamiltonians on their way to the 73-47 Gold Medal win.
After all was said and done, Kia Nurse scored 31 points after not scoring any in the first quarter. She was the major reason her team managed a 39 point swing in the Knight’s favor. And in a high school championship final that won’t soon to be forgotten by all those who witnessed it.
Sounds like a statement game to me.
And what exactly was the statement communicated by the play of the top prospect in the Class of 2014 and recent UConn commit in her last high school game?
I interpreted it as, ‘Yes, the mantle has to be handed over to the next Class of players. I’ll do it as a three time defending champion, forced to retire…not because they took it from me.’
Now how’s that for high drama?
(1)St Thomas More Knights
Kia Nurse – 31 points
Abbey Clark – 20 points (four 3-pointers)
(2)Pope John Paul II Panthers
Danielle Garven – 21 points
Eternati Willock – 10 points