Cardinals’ Caputo dominates
inside with 25 points, 18 boards
By ryan buck
It may have been only the first and third games of the boys high school basketball season for Cardinal Mooney and Youngstown East, respectively.
For the packed crowd that rocked the East High gymnasium Friday night, however, it certainly resembled a high-stakes district tournament clash.
An exciting contest ended only on a missed East jump shot at the buzzer as Mooney prevailed, 55-53.
Patrick Johnson’s three-point attempt at the buzzer caromed off the back iron to cap a wild fourth quarter.
“I was just hoping it wasn’t going in!” said first- year Mooney coach Brian Danilov, describing the scene. “That was just a great game. It’s just a great place to play.”
The Cardinals (1-0) trailed for most of the contest, but used an 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to seize control of the game.
“You could tell at a point, we started dropping, probably because of turnovers, then we started getting lackadaisical.” said Mooney senior forward Doug Caputo. “Once we got our heads straight and knew what we were doing, we started picking it up and took control, as we should.”
Caputo was dominant in the paint throughout the game. At 6-foot-8, he went to work on the boards for hard-earned layups and lobs from the perimeter over a smaller East lineup.
“I like to use my height to my advantage, obviously,” Caputo said. “I’m not going to lie, I was never the toughest kid, but the coaches coming in get you into shape and they know how to turn me into a much better player and this team into a much better team.”
Caputo carried the Cardinals for much of the contest, posting 25 points and pulling down 18 rebounds.
When Mooney needed the dramatic run late, his teammates stepped up.
Joey Cunningham’s jumper, followed by Antony Filo’s layup, gave Mooney its first lead since the opening minutes of the contest.
After an East miss, Joey Kleeh’s drive and score and a Caputo put-back, pushed the lead to 52-47.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Danilov said. “We were just fortunate to get one.”
Looking dead-to-rights, East guard Marquis Cotton drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut Mooney’s lead to 53-52 moments later.
Both teams traded foul shots. With seven seconds on the clock, Kleeh converted split two free throws. East drove the court in desperation before Johnson’s narrow miss.
East coach Dennis Simmons saw his team’s delicate lead slip away in the game’s final minutes.
“I think it got to us,” Simmons said. “We kind of got away from what we do. Defensively, we struggled today. We didn’t get up and down like we wanted to. I think the lights got to us. Their coaches did a good job of slowing us down.”
The Panthers struggled at the foul line, converting just two of 14 attempts. The miscues throughout the game cost them late.
“The way we want to play, we want to transition up and down and we want to get inside,” Simmons said. “The style that we play, you have to make free throwns.”
Deontay Scott and Terrell McClain led East with 14 points apiece.