AUSTINTOWN - Both the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals and Hubbard Eagles came in as evenly matched teams and played that way until the longest 1.8 seconds in recent memory decided a game someone had to lose on Feb. 25.
That team was the Eagles, who stayed with the Cardinals almost all night before falling, 52-51.
"I think it shows the character of our kids," Hubbard coach Ross Stoffer said. "They believe the game is a complete 32 minutes and they're going to give that effort the whole time. I feel bad for them losing this close one. I give Mooney credit for the close win. I feel bad for our kids and the effort they gave."
The first quarter started off interestingly enough with both teams creating turnovers that set up a lot of scoring for each, with the Cardinals getting it out to 14-10 before a 7-2 Hubbard run to close out the quarter gave them the lead after one.
After a Breena DiBacco field goal made it 23-18, the Eagles came right back with a Paige Seech 3 to close the gap back to a possession.
The Cardinals once again extended the lead, this time out to eight before the Eagles closed out the last minute by getting to the line twice and then coming off a missed basket by Michele Starkey, she rebounded her shot and find Jillian Hinkleunder under the basket to get it at 32-26 at the half.
"I thought we did a good job of stopping their running game, they're a transition team," Stoffer said. "I think our league helps us with that: Howland, Canfield and Liberty - all these different teams that like to get it and go."
If the Eagles struggled with anything all night, it was trying to stop the two Katies of Mooney: Hughes and Griswold. They accounted for half of the Cardinals' 32 points at the half. They finished as co-leading scorers with 16 points each.
"In the first half Griswold and Hughes hurt us," Stoffer said. "Hughes in the first quarter and Griswold in the second quarter. We thought with them being their best two scorers, if we would have done a little bit better job on them in the first half, we probably would have had the lead at that point in time."
The Cardinals got it out to six in the third quarter after two free throws from Dominique Zordich with 4:13 left, but Cara Julian, who led the team with 21 points, got it going with two 3s that got it back within three at 44-41 going into the final quarter.
It's win or go home," Mooney coach Jack Bermann said. "Ross is a great coach. Their kids were playing hard, our kids we're playing hard. Every time we made a run, they came back. That's how tournament basketball should be."
The Eagles' perseverance paid off as they got their first lead since the end of the first with 4:31 left to go. It was short-lived as Hughes, held scoreless in the third, got the lead back at 48-47.
Angela Starr's bucket extended it out to three with Julian making it a one point game again with a little over two minutes left to go.
The Cardinals then almost ran the clock down from there until the Eagles finally fouled with 19.4 seconds left. Starr came up big again as she sank both free throws on a 1-and-1 to make it 52-49.
"They chose to wait it out and with a one point lead, maybe it was a smart thing to do because if we screw it up one time, they got the ball," Bermann said. "Anything can happen. Our kids did a nice job of holding the ball for the end."
With 16.2 seconds left, the Eagles thought they turned the ball over after a jump ball was called and the possession arrow pointing to the Cardinals with 1.8 seconds left.
The scorekeeper realized his mistake soon enough and the Eagles got it back and tried running three different plays, but could never get it out behind the 3-point line until a harmless bucket by Allie DeLuco was made in the paint to make it a final at 52-51.
Mooney 52, Hubbard 51
Division II sectional final
at Fitch High School
3-POINT GOALS: M 2 (Griswold 2); H 5 (Julian 3). REBOUNDS: M 29; H 28. ASSISTS: M 13; H 9.