By Greg Gulas
Joe Cunningham had 25 points while Andrew Armstrong added 17 as Cardinal Mooney’s boys basketball team defeated East, 57-37, Saturday night.
The win gave the Cardinals a sweep of the season series. Cardinal Mooney defeated the Panthers, 69-54, on Jan. 25 at East.
“We started the season slow, but knew that we had all of the components to be a good team,” Cunningham said. “We couldn’t finish a game earlier in the year, but now we know how to do that and that’s been the biggest difference for us over the past eight or nine games.
“The key tonight was being able to move the ball, controlling the tempo and boards while limiting turnovers.”
A three-point play by Terrell McClain barely 30 seconds into the game gave the Panthers (5-12) an early 3-2 advantage.
It was the only lead they would enjoy in the game.
Nine points by Cunningham then keyed a 13-4 run by the Cardinals (12-7) as they opened a 15-7 margin heading to the second period of play.
Seven points by Cunningham and six more by Armstrong helped Cardinal Mooney to a 22-point second quarter as they led 37-21 at the break.
Armstrong, who at times has struggled with his stroke at the free-throw line, went 7 of 10 from the charity stripe while the Cardinals canned 10 of 15 as a team.
He gave former Cardinal Mooney girls coach Roy Nard an assist on helping with his delivery.
“Coach [Nard] just told me to make sure that my hand was positioned right, adding maintain my balance but always focus on the hoop,” Armstrong said. “We played hard, gave a great overall effort and that was what helped us defend our court.”
Five points each from Rashawn Boykin and McClain after the intermission helped the Panthers cut the Cardinal Mooney lead to 44-33 as East outscored the Cardinals 12-7 in the period.
“We knew that we had to take care of the ball and play smart because East coach Dennis Simmons always has his team ready to play,” Cardinal Mooney coach Brian Danilov said. “When Joe and Andrew can combine to score 42 of our 57 points it just shows you how unselfish we are as a team. They do well because the players around them are doing well and carrying out their assignments.”
Armstrong capped his night off by scoring 10 points in the final quarter while the Cardinals’ defense held the Panthers to just four points in the period en-route to their 20-point victory.
“They took us out of our game early and we just couldn’t recover. We got in foul trouble and struggled the rest of the way,” Simmons said. “We played a brutal schedule early but that has definitely helped us with tournament play right around the corner.”
Both teams pulled down 26 rebounds with East’s Dalane Brown hauling in a game-high 10.
Marcus Penza grabbed seven misses for the Cardinals, who have now won seven of their last nine contests.
The Panthers, who started the season 2-10, entered play having won three of their last four outings while the loss dropped them to 0-9 on the road and 1-9 overall, which includes a neutral-site win.