Girard stops Mooney in tourney opener

GIRARD — Each possession can be critical in determining the fate of your season. That is tournament basketball.

Girard survived its first test with a 57-49 victory, at home, over Cardinal Mooney in a first-round Division II sectional contest.

The Indians got out to a 19-14 advantage after one quarter led by David Blackmon who scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the quarter.

“It was a good team win. We followed the game plan. We knew they were good and physical. We just had to match their intensity,” Blackmon said.

Both teams played with tremendous effort on defense, fighting for their playoff lives. The physical play led to a low-scoring 2nd quarter in which the Cards outscored the Indians, 13-10.

With 45 seconds remaining in the half, Cardinal Mooney’s Johnnie Mikos banked in a 3-pointer to cut Girard’s lead to two at 29-27.

After building the lead to six, Girard’s Anthony Backus was given a technical foul during a battle for a loose ball. It looked like the Cards might steal the momentum. However, Mooney’s Pete Haas, who had a game-high 17 points, missed both free throws.

The Indians had good ball movement in the third, despite double-teams and traps by a hustling Mooney defense. Girard spread the wealth around with Blackmon, Austin Claussell, Mark Waid, and Austin O’Hara all hitting big buckets.

Girard built a 12-point lead before Mooney’s Brandon Mikos swished a 3 as the third-quarter buzzer sounded. Girard led 44-35 entering the fourth.

Claussell and Waid each finished with 11 points for Girard. O’Hara had eight.

The Indians had a 49-39 lead with five minutes left. Mooney went on a 6-0 run, and with two minutes remaining the score was 49-44, Girard on top. The Indians were able to dribble and pass their way out of trouble down the stretch. Girard hit crucial free throws in the closing minutes to secure victory.

“I thought the kids on both sides just played with great effort. That’s what the tournament is all about,” Girard coach Craig Hannon said. “We just made a couple more plays down the stretch. We got them to miss a few, and we converted our free throws.

Girard now advances to the next round of the tournament where they will pay a visit to number two seed Howland on Friday.

“Howland is a good team, but we’re going to come in tomorrow and get to work,” Blackmon said.

“We have our work cut out for us. Howland is a solid, good basketball team. We are going to have to look at some film to get ready. Our kids are focused, and should be ready to go,” Hannon said.

Howland coach Dan Bubon had his team with him in the stands scouting their next opponent.

“It was a hard-fought game. I’m sure coach Hannon is going to pull out something we haven’t seen before when we meet Friday,” Bubon said.