Mooney beats Irish, wins SVC title

YOUNGSTOWN — Cardinal Mooney vs. Ursuline is always a big game. Wednesday’s girls basketball game between the two schools had even more at stake.

Cardinal Mooney seized control of the game from the opening quarter and clinched the Steel Valley Conference title with a 66-36 victory over the Irish on Ursuline’s floor.

Catie Perry led the Cardinals (9-6, 5-0 SVC) with 23 points. Katie Hough finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“We all knew it was a big game,” Perry said. “We have to work our hardest and do everything to work for each other. We knew it was a big game for both teams. We knew how big it was for the league championship. We were glad to at least have that.”

Much like the schools’ first contest back in December, Mooney jumped out to a double-digit lead in the opening quarter. This time Ursuline (5-11, 1-3) couldn’t get the game back into single digits despite the Cardinals committing 13 fouls in the opening quarter.

Mooney coach Jason Baker said those fouls kept the game close as it was a 19-9 lead after one and 39-23 lead at the half despite the Irish shooting 5-of-17 from the floor.

“Absolutely,” Baker said. “That was pretty much self-inflicted. We were reaching in a lot, playing with our hands instead of our feet, because we were in good position. We adjusted though. We did a lot better job with that in the second half.”

Before they got to that second half, Ursuline was 12-of-16 from the charity stripe.

“Mooney is a good defensive squad,” Ursuline coach Mike Kernan said. “We definitely didn’t execute our offense. We need to work at being a little more patient. We need to make better decisions and create better shots. We didn’t do that tonight. When we had some around-the-bucket shots or layups, we weren’t focusing or finishing.”

Anisah Moorman had eight points at the half, but was held scoreless in the second half. Paris Gilmore led the Irish with 13 points. She was the only player in double figures for Ursuline.

“I’m not one to make excuses, but we have key people injured, sick, not practicing,” Kernan said. “We can’t just show up and think we’re going to compete. When you don’t have a whole lot of depth, it takes its toll a little bit.

“Hopefully, we can get healthy and start coming together toward tournament time. I know we can compete in our district.”

The third quarter was an auspicious start for both teams as Mooney missed its first six shots and Ursuline missed its first nine.

“A lot of those were layups, Baker said, That’s a part of basketball. You’re not going to make every shot you take.

“The good part is that we held them down defensively while we missed those shots. Once we started making shots, we were able to extend the lead.”

Perry’s 3-pointer midway through the quarter got the Cardinals going again as they led 51-29 heading into the final quarter.

Ursuline was held to 13 points in the second half on 5-of-20 shooting.

“Offensively, we played really well tonight,” Baker said. “We knew going in that our transition would be something we could really use to score. We shot the ball well and passed extremely well. I’m really proud of the girls how they stepped up in a big situation.”

The Cardinals shot 23-of-55 for the game with three players in double figures as Maria Fire finished with 11 points.

“I feel we are playing our best basketball,” Baker said. “Our schedule has been really tough and it’s prepared us for big situations like this. I really feel like we are heading in the right direction which is what you want to do.

“You have to be playing your best basketball in February.”