SALEM – For the second straight year, the Cardinals are flying to Canton.
In a scrappy game where whoever was going down was going down swinging, Cardinal Mooney was left standing in a 38-31 win over Springfield in the Division III Salem District finals.
The win gives Mooney its second-straight district title and its 11th in program history.
“I feel happy for our kids,” Cardinals coach Carey Palermo said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game offensively, it didn’t seem like we could really get in the flow of anything we wanted to do. A lot of my old mentor coaches told me we didn’t want to be in a half-court game with this team and we don’t, they’re really good, but we’re capable of winning multiple ways and our kids did . “
Going into the game, the plan was to play super uptempo, but senior Mick Hergenrother found himself in foul trouble. To save him for later in the game, his minutes of him were reduced, which meant the team had to adjust.
Without Hergenrother on the floor, the Cardinals slowed the pace down, opting for longer possessions and keeping the ball out of Springfield’s hands.
“When Mick Hergenrother got into foul trouble, we knew we had to slow the game down,” Palermo said. “We wanted to shorten the game up. More possessions would have been better for them, but we feel if (Hergenrother) was on the floor, more possessions would have been better for us. We want to slow the game down a little bit, take advantage of our possessions and get the ball to our scorers’ hands and Rocco (Turner) and Ashton (O’Brien) played really well. “
O’Brien led the team with 13 points and Turner tacked on 12.
The plan to keep the ball out of Springfield’s hands worked as Mooney held the Tigers’ explosive offense to 31 points. Before Saturday’s game, Springfield hadn’t scored less than 53 points all season.
“I’ll be honest, it was one of those games where we needed to make shots, but unfortunately, we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Tigers coach Jeff Brink said. “We missed a lot of open threes and then we missed some crucial free throws. That’s the difference in a tight, grind it out type of game, which we expected.
“Mooney is a good team and coach Palermo does a great job. We knew it was going to be a physical, tough battle. Unfortunately, we didn’t make any shots when we had them. “
Alex Rothwell led the Tigers with 16 points. Springfield’s season ends at 24-2 with the only loss coming to LaBrae in the team’s regular season finale.
The Tigers’ senior class is one of the most decorated classes across all sports at Springfield. Between football, basketball, baseball and track, Brink says the stamps they’ve left on the program and the school itself are massive.
“This senior class went to the regionals twice, won the first league title in six years, they’ve gone to two state football finals, the baseball team’s gone to state and track has gone,” Brink said. “It’s one of the best senior classes in the history of the school district.
“When you look at what they’ve done in terms of athletics, it’s hard to appreciate after a tough loss, but I think in retrospect down the line when you have time to reminisce, you’re going to realize that was one of the most dominant senior classes the Springfield Local has ever seen. “
Mooney advances to the regional semifinal at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse on Wednesday to take on Campbell, who took down Jefferson on Friday to win the Warren District. Start time for the regional semifinal is set for 6 pm