By Doug Chapin
YOUNGSTOWN — The Cardinal Mooney High girls basketball team put together a 19-10 third-quarter on the way to a 52-48 victory Wednesday night over Fitch.
The Cardinals (5-6) trailed 17-9 midway through the second quarter before closing to within 21-15 at halftime. In the decisive third quarter, Kelly Martini scored eight of her nine points, including two big 3-pointers, and Katrina Lawson tallied five of her seven points.
“This is a big floor and we’ve had a lot of teams come in here and have good first halves and have third quarters that are a little shaky,” Mooney coach Jack Bermann said. “And we take advantage of that. This was another case where luckily we got a few more bodies in there and we were able to keep up the tempo.
“Everybody that played in that third quarter, whether they started or came off the bench, helped us turn a six-point deficit into a three-point lead. And then we kind of hung on in the fourth.”
Mooney didn’t catch the Falcons (3-8) until the 3:42 mark of the third when a bucket by Lawson off a feed from Angela Stana put the home team ahead 25-24. Mooney’s largest lead was five points and the Cards were ahead 34-31 at the end of the quarter.
Our problems (in the third quarter) started, I think, with some of the mistakes we made in the second quarter,” Fitch coach Stacie Cepin said. “I think we turned the ball over way too much, that was the bottom line. Then in the fourth quarter we didn’t block out on the free throw lane and they got some put-backs. They made some plays when they needed to make them.
“The one thing about our kids, I thought, is that they stayed in it and they fought hard. Being in this situation is a learning experience for a lot of them. They’re playing hard, they want to win. I’m real proud of them and we are going to continue to get better. Games like tonight we can learn from.”
The Falcons refused to fold after the tough third quarter and the game was tied at 46 with less than two minutes remaining. Christine Pelini put the Cardinals ahead for good with 1:09 remaining, then the teams combined to miss seven consecutive free throws before Mooney sank four of its last five to clinch the victory.
Neither team was sharp offensively, though Mooney did shoot 48 percent (21-for-44) from the field. However, the Cardinals were 36 percent (eight-for-22) from the foul line and committed 26 turnovers. Fitch had 21 turnovers, shot 39 percent (17-for-44) from the field and 56 percent (14-for-25) from the line.
Fitch won the rebounding battle, 31-26, with TeAnn Smith leading the way with eight. Voytek grabbed nine rebounds for Mooney and led the Cards in scoring with 12 points. Byanca Henderson paced Fitch with 10 points and also dished out six assists.
With the season just past the midpoint, both coaches said their team’s progress has been positive as tournament play looms next month.
“Our practices have been really good, a lot of intensity. The kids are believing in themselves,” Cepin said. “The challenge here right now is how we respond, we’ve got another game in a couple days. We’re in a stretch of six or seven consecutive road games. Hopefully, when we are in close games on the road it is something that we can build on for the tournament.”
“I wish we were taking bigger steps but we’re still making forward progress,” Bermann said. “As long as we keep making forward progress I will be happy and we will get better. We kind of have to look forward to the tournament because we don’t have a league to play for. We’re just trying to get better each day.”