Mooney hopes to be peaking
Howell scored 25 points in Cardinals' 59-54 overtime victory over Kennedy.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Cardinal Mooney High School coach Scott Groves knew every game would be an adventure when the season began, but he hoped that the team would learn each night and peak as it headed toward the tournament.
It looks like Groves is starting to get what he had hoped.
The Cardinals (4-13, 1-4 Steel Valley Conference) got 25 points from guard Jaron Howell on the way to a 59-54 overtime win over John F. Kennedy High on Friday night.
Kennedy fell to 7-7 overall and 1-4 in the conference despite 16 points from Stephon Flanigan and three others in double figures.
"We play a tough schedule and we had some games early in the year where we had leads and just didn't put people away," Groves said. "I think that you have to learn how to win, especially when you are as young as we are. Maybe we are starting to learn that now.
"You play hard, and when you get a win like this over a good team, it can carry over."
Battle on defense
On a night when the Cardinals honored their lone senior, Dom Daltorio, the team looked more experienced than their years. Despite falling behind by as many as eight points in the second half, Mooney kept battling on defense.
The pressure and points off turnovers allowed the Cardinals to stay close enough to send the game to overtime, where they hit five of six free throws to seal their second straight win.
Kennedy took a 40-36 lead into the final quarter on a basket by Joe Chicchillo near the buzzer at the end of the third period. With Kennedy up 44-36, Mooney came back. Daltorio and Howell hit 3-pointers.
The Eagles held the lead until Howell hit another 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the score at 50-50.
"He's a good shooter and we felt pretty good with the ball in his hands at that point," Groves said. "We knew we had to turn it up on defense to hold them from there."
Kennedy got two shots at winning it, but couldn't get a shot to fall.
Mooney hit just three of nine free throws in the fourth quarter, wasting an opportunity to win the game in regulation.
"That goes back to being so young," Groves said. "But the encouraging thing is that we hit them in overtime and that was huge."
Desmond Marrow and L.J. Sutton each had three points in the extra period, while Howell hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach.
Marrow finished with 13 points for the Cardinals, while Kennedy got 14 from Chicchillo and 12 apiece from Anthony Elzy and Marc Rossi.
"It was a great game, with great effort from both teams," Groves said. "For us, it's one that we hope can give us some momentum."