by Jared Prenda
Absolute pandemonium is the singular way to describe the Franny Murry Court in the Dufour Center as the Men’s Basketball team narrowly survived the Scranton Royals in 63-62 game. The “Rivalry Red Out” game lived up to its hype, as it went down to the final seconds of the Saturday, February 11th game. The Scranton game was one of the most important that the team would play, for it guaranteed the Cardinals one of the four coveted spots in the Landmark Conference, and a shot to take momentum with them into a tough post season.
The first half was an accurate precursor for the rest of the matchup, with neither side gaining a clear upper hand in the fight. The largest margin between the two sides was when the Cardinals held a 6-point advantage over their foes with 14 minutes to play. Both teams managed to keep within striking distance of the other.
The final minutes of the opening 20-minute half highlighted the pace of play the Cardinal faithful could witness. At one minute 23 seconds the Royals hit a clutch 3-pointer to gain a 2-point lead. The Cardinals responded immediately within a bombastic put back slam dunk from freshman center Riley Hayes to tie the game at 34-34 with 10 seconds to play. Unfortunately for the Birds, Scranton player Kyle Deverna went coast-to-coast for the Royals and hit a clutch layup to get the two point, 36-34 lead at the break.
The usual suspects came to play for the Cards in their final home game of the season. Senior guard Louis Khouri lead the game in points with 17, and added an impressive 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 treys. Junior Jay Howard also posted a strong stat line with a double-double that featured 15 points, second highest mark of the match, as well as a contest leading 13 rebounds. Coming off the bench, Hayes grabbed a career high 10 rebounds and added 6 points to his resume.
The second half of play provided just as much entertainment and nail biting action as the first. The Scranton squad managed to hold off the Cardinal onslaught by matching point for point. The Royals managed to hold on to their slim lead until there was only 11 minutes and 32 seconds left in regulation, when CUA sophomore guard Andre Mitchell pulled up from 3 to gain a 47-45 lead. The two sides would continue to struggle through the heated duel until the final minutes of the game.
The match up witnessed 6 separate ties and 7 lead changes, but Catholic would play a defensive game to close out. Mitchell hit a final layup to put the Cards up 61-52, the largest lead either side would see with 5 minutes to play. The Royals then went on an 8-0 run, with both sides missing crucial buckets to gain an advantage until an almost lethal foul from Howard came with 2 seconds to play.
Freshman Mathew Mancuso went to the line to shoot 2 for the Scranton side, down one point at 61-60. The raucous Catholic fan base were all standing, shouting, and taunting the player as he tried to take the lead. The pressure proved to be a Sisyphean effort for the guard, as both shots missed their mark for a CUA victory.
The Saturday, February 11th win marked head coach Steve Howes 250th career win for the Cardinals, and puts him one shy of the program record. The team hopes to secure that win, and catapult themselves from the bottom seed to third with a win over Moravian on Saturday, February 18th.