By Greg Gulas
Cardinal Mooney and Boardman welcomed the Christmas Holiday, with each team hoping to reclaim its basketball legs.
After Friday night’s game, which featured a combined 16 missed free throws — many at crucial points — the two squads will now hope to reclaim their strokes at the charity stripe.
Dylan Bosela had 15 points while Jamar Steverson scored all 10 of his points in the second half to lead Boardman to a 46-44 victory at Spartan Gymnasium.
With the Spartans leading, 37-29, just 22 seconds into the final quarter, six points by Doug Caputo helped the Cardinals reel off 13 of the game’s next 19 points to help Cardinal Mooney pull to within 43-42 with just 17 seconds remaining.
A three-point play by Michael Duda three seconds later helped Boardman (3-5) increase its lead to 46-42, but when Joe Cunningham’s floater landed with nine seconds remaining it allowed Cardinal Mooney (3-2) to cut the Spartans’ lead to 46-44.
The Cardinals had a chance to force overtime, but missed two foul shots with one second to play as the Spartans escaped.
“During the break we concentrated on our passes, traps and help side defense,” Steverson said. “Our big focus, however, was on containing Cardinal Mooney’s inside presence in Doug Caputo. Getting him in foul trouble early was a big difference in how we played in the first half.
“In the second half, we just tried to work the ball into the paint and rebounded much better as a team.”
Four points by Austin Downie helped the Spartans to a 9-7 lead after the first eight minutes of play and when Bosela added seven of his 15 points in the second quarter, Boardman was able to increase their lead to 21-19 at the intermission.
“They were overplaying the ball so I was able to attack under the bucket in the first half,” Bosela said. “When they rotated, I was able to then attack the rim. Cardinal Mooney is our biggest rival so this is a very nice way to end 2012 as we now look to the 2013 portion of our schedule.”
Six points by Steverson after halftime enabled Boardman to open a 35-29 lead with one period remaining.
“This game unfolded just like I had envisioned it would. Both teams had plenty of energy and effort and defensively, forced each other out of their offensive sets,” Spartans coach Pat Birch said. “Each and every game though, despite the outcome, I feel like we have gotten better.”
Six points by Caputo and five more by Joe Cunningham in the final frame helped the Cardinals outscore the Spartans 15-11, the second time in as many games that the final quarter belonged to Cardinal Mooney.
“We do not play any cupcakes so you cannot miss free throws and still expect to win,” Cardinals coach Brian Danilov said. “Our free-throw shooting needs to be more consistent and not converting at the charity stripe hurt us tonight.
“Hopefully we can get our mojo back at the start of the New Year; especially at the free throw line.”