Center James Jones scored 21 points, and grabbed 15 rebounds for Fighting Irish
YOUNGSTOWN -- What a difference a year makes.
Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney renewed their annual boys basketball rivalry Friday night in front of a packed house at Mooney.
And unlike last season, the visiting Fighting Irish made themselves right at home.
Behind the dominating force of 6-foot-8 junior center Jerome Jones, Ursuline overpowered the Cardinals 80-51 in the Steel Valley Conference opener for both schools.
Jones finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks in leading the Irish charge.
"He is the center of our group and played extremely well," said second-year Ursuline coach Keith Gunther of his standout big man. "He controls everything down low. And when he wasn't blocking shots, he was making them think twice about it."
Ursuline (7-1, 1-0) broke open a close contest with a 25-4 run to close the first half and erase Mooney's slim 11-10 lead after the first quarter.
During the second quarter, the Fighting Irish sank 9-of-11 free throws to take a 32-11 lead with about four minutes remaining before halftime, and turned to their up-tempo offense to make it 35-15 at the break.
"We did everything that we wanted to in the first quarter," said first-year Mooney (1-8, 0-1) coach Scott Groves. "But part of a having a young team is that they started hanging their heads when they got down by a couple of points."
The Cardinals, which beat Ursuline three times last year, start two freshmen and rely on a handful of underclassmen to play major minutes.
But no one from Mooney could handle Jones.
"This year is a whole different atmosphere," said Jones. "Everybody wants to play and enjoy it. We have a lot of depth and have some freshmen playing real well right now."
Jones pumped in 12 of his game-high tally in the second quarter, most after offensive rebounds. He also had a couple of blocks that helped keep Mooney scoreless the first 7 1/2 minutes of the second quarter.
"We were rebounding so well offensively, I told our guards to just let it go and that loosened them up," said Gunther. "Our guards played really well tonight. This is my first time beating [Mooney] and it feels good."
Ursuline received solid contributions from D'Aundrey Brown with 12 points and Nick McCartney scored 11 points coming off the bench. Edwin Smith and Terrell Vidale each corralled seven boards as the Irish enjoyed a 47-26 rebounding advantage.
Tony Brunetti paced the Cardinals with 17 points.
The sophomore sharp-shooter caught fire in the second half with four 3-pointers to keep the faint hopes of the home crowd alive but it wasn't nearly enough.
Ursuline never allowed its lead to dip below 18 points after halftime.
Mooney's Dom Daltorio added 10 points and Jaron Howell chipped in seven.