By Pete Mollica
Cardinal Mooney girls basketball coach Bill Ritter wasn’t at all happy with his team’s performance in the first half of Thursday’s contest against East High.
So Ritter and his staff had his Cardinals go back to the basics in the second half and the results was a come-from-behind 42-38 victory over the Panthers.
“We just had way too many turnovers in the first half,” said Ritter. “So we just went back to fundamental basketball in the second half, got them into foul trouble and we made some clutch free throws down the stretch. I was very pleased with their effort in the second half.”
For the first 24 minutes of the contest, the Cardinals had only one lead and that came early in the first quarter 3-2. The Panthers regained the lead 6-5 with 4:05 left in the quarter and held it until early in the final quarter.
Mooney (3-2) trailed 27-20 at halftime, but whittled away that margin in the third quarter 31-28 and then tied up the game at 34-34 with 4:18 left in the contest.
Katrina Larson, who led the Cardinals with 19 points, hit a free throw to give Mooney its first lead since the opening minutes and then she scored another basket with 2:40 remaining to put the Cardinals ahead for keeps 37-36.
The Cardinals connected on 5-of-10 free throws the rest of way, while holding East to just a field goal to claim the victory.
“Their aggressive defense had us stumped in the first half,” added Ritter. “It was more their quickness then anything else, something they we just couldn’t duplicate in practice.”
Ritter praised the play of Larson.
“She’s a player when she wants to be, and she did a great job both scoring and on the boards for us tonight,” he said.
The Panthers (2-2) were in foul trouble late in the game and this added to their problems, according to East head coach Tanisha Franklin.
“It really affected our defensive play,” Franklin said. “You could just see them backing away and not being as aggressive as we were in the first half. But don’t take anything away from Mooney, they played a great fourth quarter.
East was led by senior Lesa Monet Oliver, who tossed in 17 points.
“She really killed us in the first half and we knew that we needed to do a better job on her in the second half,” Ritter said.
Still, Oliver had nine points in the second, but the Panthers only scored 11 as a team in the final two quarters as Mooney shut down the rest of the Panthers.
Mooney’s freshman guard Jamie DiDominico finished with eight points including a pair of 3-point goals, while junior Christine Pelini added nine more with one 3-point goal. The Panthers did not make a 3-pointer in the contest.