Catholic High didn’t have much breathing room Tuesday night.
In the end, the Bears wouldn’t need it.
After a neck-and-neck game for most of the night, Catholic High pulled ahead in the final minutes of the game to edge out McKinley 50-47 in the district 5-5A matchup.
“That’s what we talked about at halftime,” said Catholic coach Mark Cascio. “If we could get three or four more stops, we felt like we could score the ball consistently enough to where we could maybe pull away.”
For 32 minutes it was a defensive slugfest between the pair of Division I, top 5 teams, with neither side able to settle into any kind of shooting rhythm on the Bears’ home court
For the first half it appeared as if McKinley’s Tyrece Radford might be the exception to that fact, hitting shots whenever the Panthers needed to retake the lead.
But he couldn’t keep it up for the full four quarters as Catholic (15-7, 1-1 district) shifted to a zone defense after halftime to knock him off his shots.
Radford, forced to shoot a bevy of permitter tries with a defender in his face, particularly late in the game, finished hitting 7 of 20 from the field for a game-high 23 points for McKinley (17-8, 1-1)
“We went zone on (Radford) and tried to mix it up to make him score from different spots,” Cascio said. “Our guys did a really good job of always knowing where he was and where their shooters were.”
Connor Shamlin and Collin Holloway led Catholic with 11 points each, while the Bears shot 15 of 41 form the field.
McKinley wasn’t much better, though, hitting 17 of its 48 shots.
What the final few minutes came down to was, as McKinley coach Harold Boudreaux put it, Catholic finished with the fundamentals of the game while the Panthers lost composure toward the end.
Almost as soon as Catholic took more than a single possession lead in the fourth quarter, McKinley grew impatient with its shot selection as it tried to climb back.
There was brief moment where a comeback seemed possible when Catholic missed several clinching free throws, but it ultimately wouldn’t make a difference in the final outcome.
“Who wants it more? That what it comes down to,” Boudreaux said. “Are you going to dive for the ball? Are you going to get the 50-50? Are you going to box out? It goes back to strictly fundamentals of what it takes to win a good road game. We didn’t do that at the end.”