Mooney falls to Warrensville Heights

CANTON – If there’s one thing Cardinal Mooney coach Brian Danilov knows about his team, it’s that they never quit, no matter how hopeless it seems.

In a Division II regional semifinal at the Canton Civic Center, the Cardinals did just that but fell short against Warrensville Heights, 69-61.

“Our guys always battle,” Danilov said. “They don’t ever quit. They battle for every second of the game. I’m really proud of them for that.”

With 2:41 remaining in the game, the Tigers (17-10) looked like they had punched a ticket in the regional final, only to see the Cardinals (12-12) give them a scare.

Warrensville Heights’ Charles Franklin drained a pair from the charity stripe to give the Tigers a 60-50 lead. From that point, Mooney went on a 9-2 run to make it a 62-59 game with 54 seconds remaining.

After a pair of Jalen Jackson free throws pushed the lead back to five points, the Cardinals forced three turnovers over the next 40 seconds but couldn’t take advantage of them, missing their next three shots. A Yavari Hall dunk with 13 seconds remaining made it a three-possession game and sealed the win for the Tigers.

“We’ve been like that all season,” Warrensville Heights coach Brian Swift said. “That’s the inexperience, but the thing is from the beginning to now, we closed the game. We figured out how to close games out regardless of the score.”

Although senior Doug Caputo led the way for Mooney in the first half, it was a freshman that helped keep the Cardinals in the game during the second.

Andrew Armstrong scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, including eight in the final 8 minutes. He put in a 6-of-6 performance from the free throw line in the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game.

“I kind of had a rough first half,” Armstrong said. “I know I had to come out strong in the second half to get us back in the game.

“We fought until the end. I’m proud of my team.”

Despite the loss, Danilov said he was proud of what his team had accomplished this season, even if nobody else expected the Cardinals to make it to regionals.

“We expected to be here,” Danilov said. “I don’t care what anybody else think – those guys worked their asses off. They’ve laid the ground stones for the coming groups to shoot for.”