Girard’s late rally not enough
By Kevin Connelly
On a night where both teams understood how important matchups would be, Ursuline’s bigs proved to be just too big and its guards were what they had been all season long for the Irish: efficient.
Ursuline used a strong third quarter and held off Girard in the frantic final minutes to win the boys Division III district championship, 73-63, in front of a packed house at Howland High School on Friday night.
The margin of victory wasn’t indicative of how far behind the Indians were playing for most of the game, yet Ursuline couldn’t put them away.
“My guys were resilient, but Girard never quit,” Ursuline coach Keith Gunther said. “That’s been the character of our team all year. Whether we’ve been down, or we’ve been up, we’ve been able to pull out some tough victories and that was a battle.”
The Indians trailed by double digits late in the fourth quarter, but gave the Irish a scare in the final two minutes. They cut the deficit to 68-58 with 1:15 left and caused a five-second call when the Irish failed to inbound the ball. Deonte Brown, who struggled for most of the night shooting the ball, had a chance for a three-point play after getting fouled on a layup, but couldn’t knock down the free throw. That was also an Achilles heel for the Indians, who went 13-of-22, and missed seven from the line in the fourth quarter.
“You think about it, things could’ve been different,” Girard coach Craig Hannon said. “I mean we haven’t shot [free throws] great all year. They’ll have time to think about it now.”
With less than a minute remaining, things on the court became a mad scramble with players’ bodies flying everywhere, but Irish big-man Gino Naples emerged with the ball and a clear shot at the hoop. At that moment, he had his mind made up of what he was going to do next.
“As soon as I caught it and I turned and started dribbling, I knew that I was going up,” Naples said. “I was either going to travel, get fouled or get blocked, but I was going to try and dunk it anyway possible.”
The result was the best case scenario for Ursuline. Naples, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds, threw down a dunk and Girard’s Chaston Williams was called for an intentional foul for a push from behind. He converted one of two from the line and the Irish got the ball, sealing the Indians’ fate.
“We scrambled a little bit, but it was just a little too much to overcome, that’s all,” said Hannon.
The Irish led 32-23 at the half while their leading scorer, Mark Hughes, was held without a point until the final 25 seconds of the second quarter.
Instead it was David Collins who took over the go-to scorer role for Ursuline with 12 first half points, including two deep 3s.
“All of us can shoot and drive, so when one of us is off we pick each other up,” said point guard Greg Parella, who had three 3-pointers and 16 points.
“We grew as a group and we don’t quit. We really play well together.”
Collins did most of his damage in the first and third quarters for the Irish, finishing with a game-high 22 points.
Even though Hughes was held in check with only 10 points, he found other ways to impact the game. The 6-foot-3 guard had a team-high seven rebounds and six assists, giving the Indians fits with his driving ability.
As for Girard, senior Evan Standohar had a hot shooting night, connecting on three 3-pointers from the corner and finishing with 17 points. However after getting outscored 24-15 in the third quarter, the hill was too steep to climb for the Indians.
“The hardest part is I have four seniors in there who I’m never going to be able to coach again,” said Hannon.