By Joe Catullo
With less than five seconds remaining in Monday’s game, Zavier Powers gambled on Lake Catholic High’s fate against Cardinal Mooney’s boys basketball team, a risk that involved a matter of inches.
The Cardinals trailed by one point and inbounded near the Cougars’ bench, needing to go the length of the court to win. Playing man-on-man coverage, Powers left his guy.
Two other teammates surrounded Mark Handel at halfcourt. The ball sails. Powers and Handel leap for the ball at the same time.
“Immediately I’m thinking ‘Oh no. They’re going to win the game at the buzzer,’” Lake Catholic coach Mark Chicone said.
Powers jumped over Handel and deflected the pass. Still, Handel grabbed the loose ball and heaves it from half court as the buzzer sounds.
He had the distance, but the ball stayed left of the rim as the Cougars won, 57-56.
“If I didn’t get that deflection, there was a wide-open man down court,” Powers said. “It might have been a whole different outcome to the game.”
Powers saved the game for Lake Catholic (6-2) after he almost gave the Cardinals (2-3) the advantage.
The Cougars took the 57-56 lead with 1:12 remaining after Kareem Haddix tipped in the go-ahead bucket. Mooney turned the ball over on its next possession. Powers took control at the top of the key with Lake Catholic in the bonus.
Instead of waiting for Mooney to foul him with 40 seconds left, Powers drove in the paint.
“That’s his decision,” Chicone said. “If you hold the ball, you’re going to the line for a one-one, and there’s no guarantee you’ll make that.
“It’s a situation where we tell our guys that if you can make the shot, go at it. He didn’t go against our wishes. If he makes it, it’s a great move.”
Andrew Armstrong stepped in front of Powers at the last moment, forcing a missed layup. Handel was then fouled with 28.3 seconds left but missed both free-throw attempts.
“The missed foul shots and turnovers hurt us,” Mooney coach Brian Danilov said. “We got to do a better job of executing down the stretch.
“We’re getting the effort. Now we just got to cross our Ts and dot our Is.”
Powers finished with a team-high 13 points (11 in the first quarter). He sat for most of the second and third quarters in foul trouble. Justin Robinson and Brett Nalepa each scored 12 points.
For mooney, Armstrong scored 22 points and collected 16 rebounds. Joe Cunningham had 16 points while Handel tallied eight.