By John Kovach
The Cardinals shattered Youngstown Christian’s undefeated record.
YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Christian High basketball team challenged Cardinal Mooney for the lead virtually the entire game Tuesday night at the Eagles’ gym, but just couldn’t get over the offensive hump to tie or take the lead in the late stages.
The reason: Mooney’s experienced players, strong rebounding and defensive pressure, plus timely scoring from Jeff Chahine and Chuck Gruber and the leadership of Donald D’Alesio.
“We were able to maintain our lead because of our seniors,” explained Mooney coach Chris Kohl, whose Cardinals surged from a 39-37 lead early in the final quarter to a 52-42 victory to shatter the Eagles’ undefeated record before a full house.
“They have been playing together for six years in AAU basketball, and in the ninth grade and at St. Charles and they know what to do with the basketball, and how to press and who to get the basketball to and how to score.”
Gruber scored six of his 12 points in the final quarter to help Mooney (6-1) draw away down the stretch, while Chahine led the Cardinals’ attack with 13 points.
John Pecchia scored 12 points to lead Youngstown Christian (7-1), including a 3-point goal that drew the Eagles within 39-37, and a goal and foul shot that pulled his team to within 46-42 with 3:36 remaining.
But Mooney repelled the challenge and scored the final six points of the game, starting with Ryan Gallagher’s goal followed by John Stoops’ two foul shots. Then Gruber and Stoops each added a foul shot to finish off the Eagles.
“We were real strong on the boards and they were not getting too many offensive rebounds,” said Kohl. “I credit that to defensive coach Mike Butch. They were not getting too many second shots and also we were playing full-court defense.”
Coach Dolph Carroll of Youngstown Christian said his team made too many mistakes.
“We had defensive breakdowns. We didn’t rotate. Mooney’s pressure caused us problems,” said Carroll, noting his players were taking the wrong kind of shots.
“We were trying to go inside to Anthony Walker because Anthony was getting loose, but we started shooting shots from the outside. We weren’t making good decisions.”
But he also said that Mooney “had a lot of guys contributing.”
Kohl lauded Gruber and D’Alesio.
“Gruber is the best 5-10 post player in Youngstown. He is tough in the clutch, and in the fourth quarter we were trying to get Chuck the ball, although he missed some free throws,” said Kohl.
And, “Don D’Alesio had a nice game. He controls our team and it’s a good thing that he does it.”
But Kohl said his team struggled offensively a times.
“We couldn’t buy a basket. The Youngstown Christian players played good defense,” said Kohl.
Carroll said he liked playing Mooney.
“This was a fun team to play, in a great venue, with a great crowd. They are a good team,” said Carroll.
John Stoops added eight points and eight rebounds, D’Alesio five assists and two steals and Gruber five steals to bolster Mooney, which held a slim 37-34 lead after three quarters.
Casey Carroll had a strong overall game for Youngstown Christian with eight points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Both teams had similar shooing percentages from the field: Mooney 17-for-45, including 5-for-15 from 3-point range; the Eagles 14-for-45 and 5-for-17, contributing to the close game.