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Fourth quarter surge sends Cardinal Mooney boys past Struthers, 61-57

Staff writer/Brian Yauger. Mooney guard Rocco Turner drives to the basket during the Cardinals’ win at Struthers on Saturday.

STRUTHERS — After trailing by five heading into the final quarter, Cardinal Mooney’s boys basketball team rallied back to spoil Struthers’ home opener, taking down the Wildcats 61-57.

Both teams are coming off solid seasons with appearances in their respective regional semifinals.

Mooney, which moved to 3-0 on the year with the win, made sure to get games like this early in the season to hopefully prepare for another tournament run like last year.

“It’s huge,” Cardinals coach Carey Palermo said about beating a program like Struthers. “That’s why we scheduled it. That’s why we scheduled it here in the Fieldhouse; we knew it’d be a big crowd and tournament-like atmosphere. They’re a great program. This has been one of the better programs in the area the past three or four years, and it’s just great for our kids to get experience. “

Mooney was able to take advantage of a few costly fouls in the fourth quarter, giving that extra spark the team needed. Senior Mick Hergenrother went 9-of-11 on free-throw attempts in the final quarter and helped ice the game in the final minute.

Hergenrother led the team with 22 points.

The Cardinals graduated talented players like Mike Pelini and Thomas Fire. The resilience the team showed against Struthers inspired some additional confidence in Palermo despite the loss of two very talented players.

“I can’t be more proud of them, but honestly, I’m not surprised,” he said. “This senior class, the makeup of these kids, and with the work they put in over the last couple years, it’s going to take a heck of a team to beat us.

“Struthers is a great team, but they left the door open a little bit about midway through the third quarter and our kids were able to capitalize.”

Sophomore Rocco Turner added 20 points. With the makeup of the Mooney roster, Palermo thinks anyone could take over the game on any given night.

“He shoots the ball extremely well,” Palermo said. “He puts a lot of time in and a lot of our guys are expected to have a breakout year. We have a lot of returners and we have a lot of talented newcomers. All of them are going into different roles. Tonight was Rocco’s night so can it be somebody else’s night on Friday.”

Up next, the Cardinals face Austintown Fitch.

“Those are two well-coached teams and two very good teams,” Palermo said. “We’re going to have to bring it like we did tonight. We’re going to be ready to roll.”

The Wildcats have a very fresh lineup after graduating a great senior class, but coach Michael Wernicki mentioned that inexperience isn’t an excuse.

While only two players on the roster have varsity experience, the talent is still there for the team to succeed. It’s just a matter of catching up to speed.

“I don’t use the fact that we’re young as an excuse for not winning or losing,” Wernicki said. “There’s some things that you can’t simulate in practice or a scrimmage.

“We played a really good team. If we played them in February, maybe the outcome’s different. Maybe we’re a better team at that point, but the fact that we’re young, that’s not an excuse, but the fact that we haven’t played the varsity minutes, you know, that plays into it a little bit.”

Struthers (0-1) travels to Niles to open up league play.

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