Meadville Tribune

December 28, 2012

St. Francis rises up to beat Cardinals

By Drew Karpen
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Unfortunately for the Cochranton boys basketball team, a game consists of four quarters.For the first three quarters on Thursday night, the Cardinals (4-3) were hanging around with the defending Sertoma Holiday Tournament champion, St. Francis Catholic (Canada), before falling to the Phoenix 67-47 in the opening game of the 2012 Sertoma Club Holiday Tournament at the House of Thrills. The Cardinals were outscored 18-6 in the final quarter.

“We just couldn’t find a rhythm or get anything going,” Cochranton first year head coach Scott McCurdy said. “No excuses on our end but if we stepped up and played a little harder things could have been different. We just didn’t show up to play and they did.”

Cochranton will look to salvage a win in the tournament tonight when they face Seneca, a 69-48 loser to host Meadville in the night cap.

Things got off to a shaky start on the Cardinals’ first possession as Alex Custead was forced into a tie up, resulting in the first turnover of the game. The Phoenix would take advantage on a 3-pointer by Thomas Lalande, giving St. Francis a 3-0 lead.

Alex Custead would score his only two points of the game off an inbounds play to bring the Cardinals to within one. Lalande would prove to be the sharpshooter to watch early on, drilling his second three in as many possessions.

The Phoenix showed their aggressive nature as they implemented the full-court press from the start. The press seemed to force the Cardinals hand, creating turnovers and ill-advised shots.

“The press hasn’t bothered us all year,” McCurdy said. “Usually it generates some good shots for us but it just wasn’t happening. We just couldn’t get everyone on the same page on both ends of the court.”

The press and a mix of St. Francis’ senior Patrick Pilato was a bad combination for the Cardinals. Halfway through the first quarter, Pilato decided to take over the game. Whatever he wanted to do, the Cochranton defense could not find a way to stop him.

Pilato scored 22 of his 32 points in the first half, including going 13-for-14 from the free throw line.

There were a few key moments in the game that Cochranton had an opportunity to get themselves back in the game. Late in the first quarter, senior Jed Villamar provided a spark off the bench with his quick 4-0 spurt.

Villamar would pick the pocket of the Phoenix point guard and raced down the court for an easy lay in. On the Cardinals’ next possession, Villamar would showcase a nifty wrap around move from underneath the basket to cut the deficit to 18-13 after the first quarter.

Cochranton would exchange buckets back-and-forth with St. Francis for the majority of the second quarter. Junior Nick Dickson would pull the Cardinals to within two on a nifty fake leading to an easy layup. Like they had all game, the Phoenix had an answer for the Cardinals’ run. After a Connor Dick layup to increase the lead back to four, Pilato’s drained a 3-pointer to give the Phoenix a comfortable margin at seven.

Another three by Pilato increased the lead to 10 with less than a minute remaining in the half. That is when the luck turned to the Cardinals’ side. With time running out, Cochranton’s Andy Saunier found himself trapped before throwing up a prayer just behind the 3-point line, only to see it bank in at the buzzer.

“I didn’t know how much time was left and I heard everyone screaming,” Saunier said. “I kind of just chucked it up and banked it in. It was lucky for sure.

Whatever luck remained for the Cardinals was gone at the start of the second half. Cochranton was never able to make a run to close the gap.

The Cardinals were able to cut the deficit back to five when Dickson hit a rainbow three, but had trouble stopping the Phoenix on defense. Pilato and Dick would make back-to-back shots to increase the lead to 49-41 with one quarter remaining.

That is when the wheels fell of for Cochranton. The fourth quarter collapse gave way to any comeback attempt the Cardinals had in mind.

Besides Pilato, Dick and Lalande also reached double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

For the Cardinals, Dickson was the only player to reach double digits with 12 points.

“For whatever reason we just didn’t come to play,” McCurdy said. “We need to learn from it and put it behind us. We will show up mentally ready to play tomorrow. You will see a different Cardinal team. Win or lose, there will be a lot better effort on both ends of the court. Our guys will be on the same page tomorrow.”