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By Joe Catullo Jr.
With the game tied late in overtime Friday night, Ursuline High took more than one minute off the clock against Cardinal Mooney.
The same happened at the end of the fourth quarter. Only this time, the Fighting Irish finally executed what coach Keith Gunther wanted all along.
“We wanted Mark Hughes to penetrate a gap like we’ve been trying to get him to do the whole time,” Gunther said. “Mark did a nice job of penetrating. Dave [Collins] cut to the backside.”
After missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, Hughes found Collins open underneath the basket. Mooney fouled him with 5.4 seconds remaining. Collins delivered on the first attempt and missed the second.
After a timeout, the Cardinals inbounded with 3.3 seconds remaining. Timmy Durkin’s halfcourt heave didn’t make it and Ursuline defeated its archrival, 75-74.
Ursuline (7-3) fans bombarded the court shortly afterward.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” Gunther said. “The greatest atmosphere in Ohio is Ursuline-Mooney. If we would have lost, I would have told you the same thing.”
Mooney (2-5) had a chance to take the lead before the Fighting Irish had their final possession. Mark Handel was fouled at the 1:12 mark with Ursuline leading, 74-73. He split the pair, which the Cardinals did all game long.
“It’s on us,” Mooney coach Brian Danilov said. “We got to make our foul shots, we have to make our layups and we have to play smarter. They’re working hard. Now they got to play smart.”
Mooney made 10 free throws on 20 attempts while the Fighting Irish hit 15 on 22 attempts, including 10 in the first half.
Another key factor was rebounding. Ursuline collected 34 rebounds, while the Cardinals grabbed 25. The Fighting Irish also tallied 14 offensive rebounds, creating numerous second-chance opportunities.
“I told our kids before the game that if we’d win the rebound matchup, we’d have a chance to win,” Gunther said. “I thought a lot of the offensive rebounds were major.”
Desmond McElroy scored a game-high 22 points (17 in the first half), collected five rebounds and tallied four assists in his first game back after missing the previous two. Behind him was Collins with 14 points. Hughes scored 13 points while Greg Parella tallied 10.
Joe Cunningham led the Cardinals with 19 points while Handel finished with 18. Joey Kleeh scored two points but had a game-high 10 assists before fouling out in overtime.
“That hurt us early when he picked up his second foul,” Danilov said. “He had to miss the whole second quarter. He does some good things for us.”
Andrew Armstrong scored 13 points. He helped the Cardinals erase a six-point deficit at halftime in the third quarter. The Cardinals later tied the game early in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Armstrong just kicked our butt in the third quarter,” Gunther said. “He’s one of the best players I’ve seen in northeastern Ohio this year.”
The two rivals will clash again at Mooney on Feb. 7.