By Joe Scalzo
Brian Danilov was resting on a couch inside Cardinal Mooney’s coaches office, reflecting on a win every bit as ugly as the cutoff shorts/hard hat/fake mustache combination flaunted by the Cardinals’ student section, when his scorekeeper walked in.
“Hey!” Danilov said. “Were they shooting with their eyes closed, or what?”
“I think my 6-year-old could have made some,” she said.
“They went to the Stevie Wonder school of layups,” Danilov said.
Danilov’s team had just defeated Youngstown Christian, 40-24, on Friday night in a game in which the Cardinals led just 10-9 at halftime, mainly because they kept having to stop the game to get the ball out of the peach basket.
“A barnburner, wasn’t it?” said YCS coach Dolph Carroll, whose team got a late start due to the Eagles’ run to the Division VI regional final in football. “We couldn’t throw it in the ocean and they couldn’t throw it in the ocean.”
The Eagles finished with as many turnovers as points as Mooney used its effort (all-out) and Doug Caputo’s height (6-foot-8) to pull away.
“We kept the intensity up,” said Caputo, who had game-highs in points (15), rebounds (16) and steals (four). “If we keep the rate up and keep working during our practices, I think we can be a really great team.
“I don’t think we’re a great team now, but in the future I think we can be super.”
Mooney’s basketball schedule reflected the belief that the Cardinals would make a long football playoff run, which is why the Cardinals were playing just their second game of the season. (Alas, Mooney’s football team went 3-6 to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2002, prompting YCS’s student section to chant “Three and six! Three and six!” as the game wore down.)
“A lot of these guys are football guys,” said Danilov, the longtime Campbell coach who joined Mooney in the offseason after taking a year off from coaching. “We had a good summer, then we lost a lot.
“I’m liking the effort. I’m liking the fact that they didn’t quit playing, didn’t put their heads down because it was a diff ...”
He paused, shook his head and continued: “I mean, wooooo, that was ugly. Wow. Wowwwww.”
Joey Kleeh added nine points for Mooney (2-0) and Joe Cunningham had five points and seven rebounds. After YCS pulled within six, 26-20, with less than six minutes left, Mooney ran off eight straight points to end the suspense.
Caputo tried to cap the win with a two-handed slam, but (fittingly) it bounced off the rim and out.
“We were up and I figured, ‘Why not make it pretty, why not make it a good one?’ ” Caputo said, laughing. “So I tried to cock it back a little bit. You can tell that didn’t work out that well.”
Carroll can relate. Nothing YCS did worked out that well.
“Give Mooney a great deal of credit — they did a great job, they played hard and we knew they would,” he said. “We did not respond very well. We’re kind of rusty on some things and that’s my fault. I’ve got to take this one.
“It kind of snowballed on us.”
Daylen Williams scored seven points to lead YCS (2-1), while JayQuan Yanno had six.
“It’s going to be January, at best, before we’re pretty good,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to get stuff [plays] in. With what we have in, they do a good job. We’re going to be all right.”
“It’s December,” he said. “Ugly December.”