Ursuline surges past Mooney
The Irish used the foul line in the final quarter to advance to a district final.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
SALEM -- There aren't going to be many surprises when the Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline basketball teams face off in a big game.
"The game played out exactly as we expected," said Ursuline coach Keith Gunther. "We expected both teams to battle back and forth and they did that."
When the final buzzer sounded, Ursuline was on the winning end of a 50-41 score in the Division III district semifinal at Salem High School.
The Irish (14-8) advance to face Campbell Memorial Friday at 7 p.m. in a battle of the tournament's top two seeded teams.
The victory was Ursuline's second in three games against Steel Valley Conference rival Cardinal Mooney, and certainly was the most important win in terms of keeping their season alive.
"This was a great win for Ursuline," Gunther said. "It's a great rivalry and both teams were going to fight to the end no matter what."
Great effort at foul line
That's exactly what happened Wednesday night in Salem as Ursuline needed a great effort at the foul line in the fourth quarter to finally put away a physical Cardinal Mooney team.
The Cardinals (11-11) went cold from the field in the final period, making just 4-for-14 shots while Ursuline knocked in 10-for-16 free throws in the last four minutes to pull out the win.
"I know we had it down to three [points] for about three or four possessions late," said Mooney coach Steve Leslie. "We just rushed things and turned over the basketball."
Mooney had cut into Ursuline's lead which was at 10 points (33-23) in the third quarter, to trail by just three points at 42-39 on a basket by sophomore L.J. Sutton with 1:53 remaining.
After the teams traded turnovers, Ursuline's Nick McCarthy made two free throws for a 44-39 lead.
Ursuline then finished the contest with six more points on foul shots sandwiched between a basket by Mooney's Desmond Marrow.
Not enough for Mooney
The basket was not enough for Mooney to overcome Ursuline's free throw advantage.
"I'm so proud of our effort," Leslie said. "I love coaching these guys but we didn't get the ball to the basket enough.
"We didn't shoot the ball well and they made the plays they needed to in the fourth quarter to win the game."
Ursuline's D'Aundray Brown who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds credited his team's defense with winning the game.
"We were saying all week that defense would get us the win," Brown said. "We knew that we couldn't lose this game when [Mooney] made their comeback and so we just clamped down when we had to."
Mooney cuts lead to three
The Cardinals trailed by nine points, 38-29, late in the third period before making their upset bid. Mooney held Ursuline scoreless for nearly six minutes to get the game within three points.
"The game boiled down to you know what each other is going to do," said Gunther of the intense rivalry. "It basically came down to who could get the job done.
"Fortunately for us we were able to come out on top."
The Irish got a strong game from Lance Randall who finished with 13 points while Ursuline's 6-foot-8 center Jerome Jones scored 11 points and had eight rebounds.
Kyle Muir came off the bench to play a solid game with six rebounds and the senior scored two key baskets.
Mooney was led by Sutton with 19 points while Jaron Howell added 11 points.