Cardinal Mooney throttles Brookfield | News, Sports, Jobs

Correspondent photo / Lowell Spencer
Cardinal Mooney’s Jibri Carter gets off a shot in traffic against Brookfield.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Cardinal Mooney Cardinals didn’t enjoy walking off the John A. Cabas Gym floor in Salem last year as the district runner-up after a disappointing loss to Mentor Lake Catholic. The mission this year is to cut down the nets as district champions.

The fourth-seeded Cardinals took a big step toward that goal with a dominating 66-23 victory over the Brookfield Warriors on Friday night to advance to the Division III district semifinals. The Cardinals will play the Mapleton Mounties on Monday at 7 p.m. at Salem.

“Last year we obviously lost the district championship. The year prior, we won the district at Salem, and the year before that, we were in the Salem bracket and won the district. For these seniors, and seeing it as freshmen and sophomores doing that, it would mean a lot to them to cut those nets down,” Mooney head coach Carey Palermo said. “It’s all we have talked about since last season ended. It’s talked about almost every day by our guys.”

“From that day, we have talked about getting back to that exact same spot,” Cardinals senior Ashton O’Brien said. “This time we want to cut the nets down. So, we are excited to get to Salem on Monday.”

With the victory, the Cardinals improve to 19-5 on the season while the Warriors close the year with an 8-15 record.

The Cardinals used their hot shooting and defensive trapping to methodically take control of the contest. Although it took the Cardinals about 10 minutes to begin to elevate their shooting, their defense was suffocating throughout the entire contest.

“That’s a credit to Brookfield’s zone,” Palermo said of the Cardinals’ slow start offensively. “In their zone, they extend to the perimeter very well. We wanted to get the ball to the short corner and sink them in and hit the opposite.”

“In the first quarter the shots just weren’t falling,” O’Brien added. “So, we just leaned on our defense and got some stops and rebounds. Then we started scoring.”

The Cardinals scored the first 10 points of the game before the Warriors would get on the scoreboard. It wasn’t until just 52 seconds remained in the first period before Matteo Fortuna was able to drive inside for a basket to make it 10-2. The Cardinals led 12-2 at the close of the first period.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on,” Palermo said of his defense. “We want to hold every team we play to under 40 points. I think the past 12 games this year we have held teams to under 45 or 40. The kids pride themselves on it. They want to defend. They want to be physical.”

The Cardinals began to pull away more in the second quarter as they began the frame with a 9-2 run to hold a 17-point, 21-4 advantage. By the time O’Brien connected on a three at the 4:13 mark of the period, the Cardinals had built a 26-6 lead. Following a three by Eddie Nieves and a free throw by Nick Pregibon, the Cardinals had built a 26-point, 32-6 lead. They went on to hold a commanding 35-11 lead at halftime.

“We definitely pride ourselves with our defense,” O’Brien said. “It’s all we work on in practice. We try to keep everyone under 40 and we did that tonight.”

O’Brien led the Cardinals with 14 points on the night while Nieves scored 13. Coming off the bench, Nico Genova added 11 and Nick Pregibon scored 10 to help the Cardinal’s offensive output. Nieves dominated the boards as he grabbed 12 rebounds.

The Cardinals didn’t let up to start the second half as they went on an 8-0 run to start the third period highlighted by a dunk by Nieves at the 4:40 mark of the frame to make it 43-11. By the 3:58 mark of the quarter, the Cardinals had built a 35-point advantage and activated the running clock rule. They held a 52-15 lead by the close of the third stanza.

The Warriors continued to battle in the fourth quarter as Teagen Barbe connected on two threes to highlight the Warriors’ effort. Both teams substituted heavily in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals outscored the Warriors 14-8 in the frame to win by the final 43-point margin.

Matteo Fortuna led the Warriors on the night with 10 points. Barbe would add 9 on his three treys in the contest.

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