Humber College celebrate their National Championship win with family and friends.

Perfection achieved! The Humber College Women’s basketball team cap their flawless year defeating Dawson College 68-61 in the CCAA Championship game.

The Hawks were lead by seniors Aleena Domingo and Ceejay Nofuente who scored 22 and 21 points, respectively. This is Humber’s second national title in three years and a perfect end to Nofuente’s illustrious college career.

“It’s an amazing feeling to win your last college game at the biggest stage there is. There’s no better feeling, going out as a winner with the team you’ve worked so hard with over the past couple years,” said Nofuente.

Head coach, Ajay Sharma, remembers the heartbreak of last year’s Quarter-Final loss, giving this win a sweeter taste.

“It was very heartbreaking to not advance last year and it was truly what motivated us this year to try to win the gold. Winning gold this year was nothing short of amazing and to do it with this group of seniors was even more special.”

Going undefeated all season paints a big target on your back going into nationals. Sharma puts a constant belief in his team and puts what he thinks is the right game plan together to have his team in the best position to win.

With Humber College taking huge pride in their varsity programs another national title and a perfect season is further proof that they set the bar. James DePoe is the Varsity Coordinator at Humber, and has been the team manager for Canada Basketball for the past eight years, including last summer’s historic World Championship with the U19 boys.

Ceejay Nofuente and her teammates after she made the game winning shot against MSVU.

It is very special, hard to explain in few words, winning gold this year is a major validation and stamp for what this program has become. “Commitment, process, imagination, vision, belief, toughness…I can’t say enough about the entire groups mental toughness and will to win,” said DePoe.

The road to the National Championship was definitely not an easy one. The Hawks came up against MSVU in the Quarter-Finals and were at risk of going into overtime but Nofuente had other plans.

“It was a tie game, 8 seconds on the clock, I knew the game was in my hands. I wanted to wait as long as possible so there could be little to no time on the clock. The ball was in-bounded, I was looking around to see how much time was on the clock. Once I saw 6 seconds I knew I had to make my move. I jab stepped her one time, then took off and saw the help just as I was about to drive into the lane so I pulled up for a jumper and once it left my hands I knew it was good to go,” said Nofuente.

The game winning jumper was part of Nofuente’s 28 points in the game. She also grabbed 13 rebounds. That win pushed the Hawks into the Semi-Finals where they met Montmorency College.

They easily dismantled the school out of Laval, QC 83-72 behind 22 points from both Nofuente and Domingo.

This National Championship is just another award for Nofuente, who has put together a near flawless college resume. Since she joined the program five years ago, Humber is 100-3 overall and 89-0 against OCAA competition with Nofuente in the lineup.

Nofuente’s accomplishments and accolades are second to none, leading many to call her the greatest Canadian women’s college basketball player of all time. Many not including the very humble Nofuente.

“There have been a lot of accolades that I’ve received, but to call myself the best Canadian women’s college basketball player would be giving me too much credit. I am good, but none of it would have been able to get done without the help of my team,” said Nofuente.

However, both Coach Sharma and DePoe are ready to give her the title she is too modest to give herself.

“I would consider her to be the best ever. Her stats speak for themselves as does her win/loss record. She also plays the game in a different mindset then others that I’ve seen over the years. She is a true champion in every way and was able to practice at a championship level everyday,” said Sharma.

Yes, period. Arguably the greatest in any CCAA sport ever. Her resume speaks for itself as far as personal achievements. Ceejay is not one to rest on her laurels and her strive for greatness was always rooted in the team being at the forefront of that quest. Regardless of how anyone equates greatness in sport, I think Ceejay can satisfy all areas,” said DePoe.

So just how impressive are Nofuente’s records and achievements?

  • 4 straight Provincial titles
  • 2 CCAA titles, 1 Bronze
  • 3x OCAA and CCAA Player of the Year (1st athlete to ever win National POY in ANY sport 3 times)
  • 3x OCAA Championship MVP
  • 2x CCAA Championship MVP
  • OCAA single season assists record (140) (3rd straight year)
  • OCAA single season steals record (149) (3rd straight year)
  • OCAA single game points record (55)
  • OCAA single game 3PTM (13)
  • Most career points in Humber College history (905)
  • Her jersey retired in the final regular season game

 

With all her major accomplishments, Nofuente says she is most proud of her first National POY award because, “It was the same year Coach Sharma received his National Coach of the Year award. That was also the same year we had won our first National Championship. It also means the most because I was noticed nationally by the colleges of all the hard work I had done to be the best player I could be with the recovery of my torn ACL.”

Nofuente earned her third National Player of the Year award this season where she averaged 17.4 points on a career best 50.2% from the field, 8.4 rebounds, 7.5 steals and 7 assists. She broke the record for most points in a single game, scoring 55 points including 13 threes against Redeemer on January 11. Nofuente also had a 40 point outburst against St. Clair on November 27. The Hawks guard also finished with 11 double-doubles and one quadruple-double, which was the third of her career, this season.

On the more analytical side, Nofuente had an incredible Player Efficiency Rating throughout her college career that kept improving each year. PER is a single game measure of a player’s overall contribution (both positive and negative) to a game they play in.

From Krossover Analytics:

  • 2014-15 – 13.3
  • 2015-16 – 23.8
  • 2016-17 – 25.2
  • 2017-18 – 28.9

 

To give some perspective as to what Nofuente accomplished, here is the top 5 NBA career PER players:

  1. Michael Jordan – 27.91
  2. Lebron James – 27.65
  3. Shaquille O’Neal – 26.43
  4. David Robinson – 26.18
  5. Wilt Chamberlin – 26.13

Nofuente was brought to tears during her jersey retirement ceremony before her final home game on Feb. 17.

 

With her college career in the books and her jersey hanging in the Humber rafters, where does Nofuente go from here? Coach Sharma believes Europe can be a very realistic situation while also continuing to represent Canada at international tournaments.

The Toronto native got a taste of the National level when she was part of the Canada team at the FISU Summer Universiade last year in Taiwan. She will also be on the roster for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia that is set to begin April 4.

“Anytime you play for your country it just gives you a different type of feeling. More excitement, more energy, it’s just an honour to represent your country. I hope to accomplish more understanding of the game along with helping the team to win games with the help of my basketball skills,” said Nofuente.

Humber’s program won’t be able to replace the impact Nofuente had on or off the court and the legacy she leaves behind, but after a planned vacation to Italy, Coach Sharma will get back into recruiting for next season and try continue the winning culture built at Humber College.

Devon Imrie

Written by Devon Imrie

Devon Imrie is a 23-year-old journalist from Mississauga, Ontario. Contributor for North Pole Hoops. As a fourth year journalism student at Humber College he has taken in basketball at various levels providing National team coverage, high school and NPH Exposure Camps.

Website: https://twitter.com/devonimrie10

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