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Tussle for tempo

Chaney speeds things up, beats Mooney

Staff photo / Joe Simon Chaney’s Sharrod Taylor shoots a 3-pointer while being guarded closely by Cardinal Mooney’s Tommy Fire. Taylor, who made the shot, scored 12 points in the Cowboys 68-44 victory.

YOUNGSTOWN — Cardinal Mooney’s game plan against Chaney was one the Cowboys have seen quite a bit this season.

Teams try to slow the game down and play in a half-court set against an ultra-athletic Chaney team that is deep and talented.

The Cowboys don’t expect it to change anytime soon with the postseason beginning in less than two weeks, and they seem to have figured how to deal with it.

Chaney rebounded from a slow start to overwhelm Cardinal Mooney, 68-44, on Tuesday at Chaney High School.

The Cardinals executed the slower-paced style to near perfection in the first quarter and led, 13-12, after 8 minutes of play. The Cowboys picked up the intensity of their press defense in the second quarter, and it led to more turnovers for Mooney (9-9, 3-3 Steel Valley Conference) and more offense for Chaney (15-5, 5-0).

Staff photo / Joe Simon Chaney’s Travis Easterly (1) shouts instructions to teammates during the Cowboys 68-44 victory at Chaney High School on Tuesday.

The Cowboys had figured out how to speed up Mooney by halftime and led, 25-18.

“We’re used to it,” Chaney coach Marlon McGaughy said. “A lot of teams try to slow us down, but we try to make sure we keep the tempo up. We play a lot of players and try to wear them down at the end.”

The Cowboys took over in the third quarter.

Chaney forced seven turnovers and dominated defensively, not allowing a Mooney field goal until the 1:16 mark of the quarter. The Cowboys outscored Mooney, 29-14, to take a commanding lead.

Senior Travis Easterly was a big reason for the turnaround. Normally a starter, Easterly came off the bench (he’s battling a lingering knee injury) and brought the energy that was missing in the first quarter. While he finished with 15 points, it was his defense and communication that helped spark Chaney.

Staff photo / Joe Simon Chaney’s Cameron Lawrence shoots over Cardinal Mooney’s Tommy Fire during their game Tuesday at Chaney High School.

“I’ve been kind of dragging and not really playing like myself, so I’m trying to get back to (that),” Easterly said. “I felt like the energy was down. We needed to pick up our energy and get back to playing defense the way we normally play defense.”

That’s how the Cowboys have been able to overcome most of the gameplans thrown at them.

They possess length, speed and athleticism throughout their roster, and it causes havoc for even some of the best ball-handlers. Mooney was able to deal with it for part of the first half, but a swarming Chaney defense eventually became too much to handle.

“They’re a good team,” Cardinals coach Carey Palermo said. “They force you to speed up a little bit. They force you to make little bit longer pass, a quick pass and stuff like that.

“They’re well-coached,” he added. “They’re fundamental. They’re basketball players. It’s not just five guys running around.”

The Cowboys, in their second year of organized high school basketball since the school district shut down athletics in 2010, won the SVC with the victory.

McGaughy was proud of the accomplishment, and he said it was a goal of the team. They can now set their sights on the tournament.

The top seed in the Division II Boardman District, Chaney has a first-round bye before facing the winner of Hubbard and Lakeview on Feb. 28. McGaughy said another game against a solid opponent like Mooney continued to prepare the Cowboys for the postseason.

“We have a tough schedule all year,” he said. “We lost three games this year by one (point). Our last two games we lost at the buzzer, and the game before that we lost on a 3-pointer, and that’s against some of the bigger schools. … It gets you tournament ready.”

Easterly and the rest of the Cowboys can’t wait to get the postseason started.

Their unselfish approach to the offense (three players scored in double figures Tuesday, led by Cameron Lawrence’s 16) and relentless defense make them a scary opponent for just about any Division II team.

“We all want to see each other succeed, and we all want to do good as a team,” he said. “Playing with these guys, I’m getting better and we’re all getting better. I feel like we can make a good run in the playoffs.”

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