By Greg Gulas
When the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals were winning their first three games of the season, they were playing a complete game at both ends of the court.
During their last two losses, however, it took until the fourth period to get kick-started as they fell short at home against Canton GlenOak and then at arch-rival Boardman, two teams that were under .500.
Coach Brian Danilov and his Cardinals were really antsy for the New Year to arrive, hoping to christen the 2013 portion of their schedule with their winning ways of 2012.
With the East Liverpool Potters in town, veterans Doug Caputo, George Brandenstein and Joe Cunningham made sure the Cardinals started the new year the right way.
Caputo had a game-high 14 points and nine rebounds while Brandenstein and Cunningham each scored nine points as Cardinal Mooney stopped the Potters, 47-40, Friday at Cardinals Gymnasium.
“As a team, we felt like we didn’t give it our best overall effort the last two times out,” Caputo said. “Our goal in the New Year is to continue to get better and we did just that tonight.”
It was Brandenstein who set the tone early for the Cardinals (4-2) as he scored four of his nine points in the opening period but Cardinal Mooney had to settle for a deadlock at 11 after the first eight minutes of play.
“We didn’t play a complete game tonight but we were able to jump in front early, hold the lead and then answered their run at the outset of the fourth quarter with a run of our own,” Brandenstein said.
Cardinal Mooney took a 37-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
East Liverpool (3-9) used an 11-2 run, keyed by D.J. Austin’s five points, to get within three, 40-37, with 4:10 remaining.
But Brandenstein and Cunningham made shots as Cardinal Mooney closed a with 7-3 run.
“This team has always worked hard, that has never been an issue,” Danilov said. “We’re now six games into the season and everyone is finally getting their rhythm and timing down while coming together as a team. You cannot teach three things — height, speed and experience — and while the first two are given, the third one is earned and we’re in the process of building on that right now as a squad.”
The Cardinals held a 40-34 rebound advantage with Hayden Cunningham hauling in a team high nine caroms for the Potters.
“I thought that Cardinal Mooney played an excellent overall game, but we shot ourselves in the foot by going 2-for-18 from 3-point range,” Potters coach Nate Conley said. “ You cannot win many games with shooting like that. We’ve played nine of our first 12 games on the road and seven of those teams remain undefeated so as a young team, we’re still experiencing growing pains.”
The Cardinals committed 22 turnovers to 19 for the Potters but blocked five East Liverpool shots. Caputo had four of them.