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  Pelini’s Buzzer-Beater Propels Mooney Into Regional Berth  
  Cards Top Waterloo, 58-55, For District Title:   March 11, 2021 Edition  
     BY GREG GULAS
      Boardman News Sports
      bnews@zoominternet.net
      Looking back on last week, what a wild week the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals boys’ basketball team experienced.
      What a memorable week their senior sharpshooter, Michael Pelini, authored.
      The No. 2 seeded Cardinals (17-4) topped No. 4 LaBrae on March 2, 77-39 to advance to their first District final since 2014 then on Friday night, proceeded to continue their perfect post-season run with a thrilling, 58-55, come from behind overtime win over No. 7 seed Waterloo for the Division III, Northeast 2 District championship.
      It was their first District crown since 2013 – they won the District title that year under former head coach Brian Danilov – and just their third District appearance since the turn of the century.
      Against LaBrae, Pelini became just the seventh Cardinals’ player ever to score 1,000 career points, hooping 35 markers against LaBrae (10-7) for an even 1,000 upon completion of their semi-final victory.
      He followed that up with 24 point effort against Waterloo, including the game-winner – a step-back triple – from well beyond the arc with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime as CMHS advanced to Regional action for just sixth time in this, their 63rd season as a varsity program.
      Pelini now has 1,024 points in his career and remains 20 points behind his Uncle Mark, better known as ‘Bo,’ who was the Cardinals’ first player to crack the historic milestone when he amassed 1,044 points from 1983-86.
      “I’m a senior and this was the last time playing on my home court,” Pelini said. “When I got the ball with under six seconds remaining, Kyle Shockley, who is one of the very best players I have ever played against, was guarding me and I just said to myself I can either shoot it or we can go to another overtime.
      “I shot the ball, it went in so needless to say this is a game that I will always remember. It’s so special to be moving on to the regionals. Ever since our freshman year we’ve been saying that we want a District championship and each year we’ve improved .
      “This team, we’ve gotten so close over the years so this is just a special achievement for all of us. It says a lot about the character of this team.”
      The Vikings opened a 4-3 lead in the opening period on a pair of free throws by Shockley – he finished with a game-high 32 points on seven buckets, including a triple and a 17 for 24 performance from the charity stripe – and Luke Simons, building an 11-7 advantage after the first eight minutes as they entered the bonus with 1:10 remaining in the opening period.
      Drew Pecchia had four points on two buckets for the Cardinals in the stanza.
      Shockley added seven more points in the second quarter while Pelini scored seven points as the Cardinals pulled to within 20-18 at the intermission.
      Pelini, it turned out, was just warming up as he scored the first two buckets of the second half to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game, 22-20 just 37 seconds into the third period.
      He then added a triple while James Campbell also notched a bucket from beyond the arc, and both Mick Hergenrother and Thomas Fire added fielders as CMHS went on a 14-3 run to forge a 32-23 second half margin.
      Foul trouble once again plagued the Cardinals as they committed their seventh foul of the half just 5:39 into the third quarter.
      Waterloo closed the period on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 32-31 with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
      A back and forth final period saw the Vikings reel off the first nine points of the quarter for 40-32 lead but four points by Pelini then a steal and hoop by Hergenrother keyed a 10-4 Cardinals run as CMHS pulled to within 44-42 with 2:13 remaining.
      A bucket by Pelini and three free throws by Fire gave Mooney a 47-45 lead but Jack Sandel’s hoop with 1.7 seconds remaining knotted the game at 47-all to force an extra four minutes of play.
      A triple and three point play by Shockley gave Waterloo a 53-49 edge 39 seconds into overtime but a triple and free throw by Hergenrother, and a hoop by Fire keyed a 6-0 run by CMHS for a 55-53 CMHS lead with 22.4 remaining.
      Shockley’s two charity tosses with 14.3 remaining knotted the score at 55-all, setting up Pelini’s heroics in his final home appearance as a Cardinal.
      After a time out, a shot by Shockley from the Cardinals’ side of the court hit the top of the backboard and fell off as the buzzer sounded, securing the Cardinals’ first Regional appearance in nine seasons.
      “They switched all screens, we haven’t seen that all year and it took us right out of our offensive rhythm,” fifth-year head coach Carey Palermo added after the game. “They’re a championship-caliber team, having won the District last year.
      “In overtime at the end, we knew that whatever we were going to run they were going to try and take it away. We just wanted to get Michael [Pelini] the ball and told him to go make a play. When he was in the huddle, I said you get the ball, go make that play and told him this is what you dream about.”
      With the many distractions both on and off the court this season, Palermo noted how special it was to be advancing to Regional play.
      “It’s really special,” he stated. “As a program, when I took over, we really struggled. We struggled for a couple years but we got better. We kept making improvement, we kept getting better and this is the culmination of that. We wanted to establish our own culture and felt the last couple years we’ve done that.
      “Again, this is kind of the end piece to that but we’re not done. We know that we have a tough game coming up in the Regional semi-finals against Lutheran East. We’re going to be happy tonight, we’re going to celebrate but tomorrow [Saturday] we’re going to come in and get back to work.”
      At press time, the Cardinals were to take on the Falcons with the game set for March 9 at Twinsburg High School.
      The Falcons were a 103-68 winner over West Salem Northwestern to capture the Northeast 4 District crown with the winner then to take on the winner of the Creston Norwayne versus New Middletown’s Springfield Local Tigers contest – they play immediately after the Cardinals – for the Regional title on Saturday at 5 p.m., also at Twinsburg High School.
      Against Waterloo, Fire (14 points) and Hergenrother (11) joined Pelini in double figures for the Cardinals while Sandel added eight markers for the Vikings.
      In the District semi-finals against LaBrae, Pelini almost outscored the Vikings by himself as he hooped 35 points to lead CMHS.
      Fire added 14 points and Hergenrother 10 as the Cardinals opened a 19-6 lead heading to the second quarter and never looked back.
      Mooney went up 34-19 at the half, outscored LaBrae 26-12 in the third period to open a 60-31 lead and coasted to their 38-point victory.
      Connor Meyer led LaBrae with 12 points, seven coming in the opening half of play.
       CARDINALS BOYS BASKETBALL NOTES…Lutheran East heads into their regional semi-final contest with the Cardinals sporting a 12-3 overall mark, having scored 101 and 103 points, respectively, their last two times out. They started 7-0 and have won four of their last seven outings…The Falcons have scored 1,131 points (75.2 points per game) in 15 frays while allowing 856 points (57.1), a plus-18.2 scoring differential.
      1,000-POINT SCORERS IN MOONEY
      BOYS BASKETBALL HISTORY
      1,514 – Vince Marrow, 1984-87
      1,280 – Preston Wells, 1990-94
      1,136 – Scott Parker, 1986-89
      1,107 – Curtis Ingram, 2000-03
      1,094 – L.J. Sutton, 2005-08
      1,044 – Mark ‘Bo’ Pelini, 1983-86
      1,024 – Michael Pelini, 2017-21
     
      photo/Howard Reese
       CARDINAL MOONEY’S MARK PELINI, 45, SOARS OVER A PAIR OF Waterloo defenders for a shot from behind the arc with 1.6 seconds left in overtime to lift the Cards to a 58-55 victory and a district title last weekend.
     
      NOTE: On Tues., Mar. 9 Cardinal Mooney fell out of regional tournament play falling to Lutheran East 74-31 in semi final action.
 
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