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Mooney beats Irish in wild ‘Holy War’

YOUNGSTOWN — This edition of the Holy War had a little bit of everything.

Three ties and 10 lead changes in the first half. A half-court shot that got Ursuline seemingly back into the game with all the momentum. And a fight that broke out in the stands with 53 seconds to go.

As if seemingly nothing more crazy could happen, the pupil beat the teacher, so to speak, as Cardinal Mooney won, 65-61 in a Steel Valley Conference matchup. The Cardinals won at Ursuline for the first time in 11 years, and coach Carey Palermo won in his seventh attempt against his former coach, Keith Gunther, Friday night.

“I don’t look at it like that,” Palermo said. “Coach Gunther, I love him. He’s done so much for my life — when I was a player, when I was a coach. Every job I’ve had in my life, he’s had something to do with it. A lot of things I’ve learned, I’ve learned from him. I don’t look at it like that. I’m just happy for the kids. With him, it’s more uncomfortable because I respect him so much.”

“Hats off to them, they played tough,” Gunther said. “I never want to lose to one of my former coaches. I’m proud to watch his kids play because he is a disciple of mine. They play like Ursuline, like we do. I’m really proud of the job he’s doing over there.”

Mooney (5-5, 2-1) had two players in double figures as Devoy Jenkins and Mike Pelini led the Cardinals with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Daysean Harris led the Irish (5-7, 1-1) with 20 points.

“We knew they were going to have all our sets and we’d have all their sets,” Pelini said. “Whoever was the scrappier team, whoever played better defense, whoever made more shots, and whoever got all the loose balls and made the tough plays was going to come out on top.”

Ursuline had the lead after one at 12-8 and led 29-27 at the half despite 8-of-23 shooting in the first half.

The Irish were aided by the Cardinals getting into foul trouble and took advantage after getting into the bonus, where the made 7-of-10 from the charity stripe.

“We were probably a little bit too handsy,” Palermo said. “We wanted to get up and pressure their guards. They did a good job of just throwing out their game plan, maybe not their game plan but getting away from their sets and just trying to break us down. We couldn’t stay in front of them. They got to the free-throw line a lot. I think we threw away the ball a lot tonight. It’s not going to come down to the scouting reports, it’s going to come down to who made more of the tougher plays,”

Though, in the second half, the roles flipped as Ursuline got into some early foul trouble and the Cardinals got into a roll opening up 46-35 advantage with a 1:14 left in the third quarter.

Ursuline shot just 4-of-12 in the quarter, but all were 3s, including Terrence Pankey’s shot from well past half court at the buzzer to make it 48-41, which seemingly brought all the momentum back to the Irish.

“The game was getting a little bit ugly at that point,” Gunther said. “In the fourth quarter, we started going to the basket. Overall, I just didn’t like the flow, how we played defensively.”

The Irish started off the quarter on a 9-4 run to get it to 52-50 after Deysean Harris’ bucket at the 4:26 mark. Ursuline got it within two again at 54-52 after the Cardinals responded, but Mooney finally got the breaks that eluded them in four of the last five matchups against Ursuline.

“The first time,” Palermo said. “Really, four out of the last five times we’ve played, we’ve been leading with two minutes to go. Ursuline has made those plays whether it’s been a 50/50 play, a rebound, kept a play alive. They’ve been able to come out on top.”

Still, in a game that had just about everything one could imagine, the game was still up for grabs, 64-61, with 8.9 seconds left because the Irish seemingly hit shots with regularity in the final quarter.

Mick Hergenrother went to the line for the Cardinals and missed both free throws but had the awareness to steal the offensive rebound to get back to the line to correct his mistake. He made 1-of-2 to seal the win for Mooney.

“We always say throw the records out the window,” Gunther said. “The kids are going to battle. They’re going to go back-and-fourth. Even when they got up 11, I thought we did a great job of battling back, but I don’t think we did the right things to finish some key plays. We get the score to three or four and just needed to box out the free-throw shooter twice.

“He gets the offensive rebound. I thought we didn’t come up with a lot of key 50/50 balls. We didn’t get great defensive stops in crunch time. Only thing that kept us in the game was them missing some key free throws. We were lucky to even have the opportunity.”

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