Calvert Hall finds eye, 56-52

Cardinals score only 29 through 3 quarters, but charge past McDonogh

Boys basketball

High Schools

January 09, 2002|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If it wasn't for out-of-state schools, the Calvert Hall boys basketball team might be unbeatable.

Last night, the visiting, sixth-ranked Cardinals made it 9-for-9 against Maryland schools with a 56-52 victory over No. 7 McDonogh.

Calvert Hall, which improved to 12-3 overall and 3-0 in the Baltimore Catholic League, has lost only to Chambersburg of Pennsylvania, St. John's of Washington, D.C., and Notre Dame of New Jersey.

"I don't know if we dominate, because we haven't played everybody from Maryland yet," said leading scorer Gary Neal, who scored a team-high 17 points last night, including six straight in a 23-second stretch to break the game open in the fourth quarter. "But so far, we've been pretty good."

Last night, Calvert Hall won thanks to a 27-point fourth quarter after it scored just 19 in the first half and 29 through three quarters. The Cardinals recovered from 6-for-25 (24 percent) first-half shooting by going 12-for-22 (55 percent) from the field in the second half.

McDonogh (9-5, 2-4) could not take advantage of Calvert Hall's initial poor shooting because the Eagles could not handle the Cardinals' full-court press or hit any free throws. Calvert Hall's press forced McDonogh into 24 turnovers, and the Eagles shot 30 percent (6-for-20) from the line.

"Defense is our staple," said Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci, whose team finished with 12 steals. "I think everybody knows that, and we realize that even when we're not shooting the ball very well, that if we play the kind of defense we're capable of, we have a chance to win the game at the end."

Both teams had foul trouble, and neither led by more than four points until Neal hit Calvert Hall's only three-pointer with 5:03 remaining. He then converted a three-point play 23 seconds later to give the Cardinals a 41-35 lead.

After a free throw by McDonogh junior forward Mike Popoko - who had a game-high 19 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot - Calvert Hall junior Vincent Delaney executed a three-point play to close a 9-1 run and extend the lead to 44-36.

"I thought Neal's three-pointer, followed by the three-point play, was really the back-breaker," McDonogh coach Matt MacMullan said. "He made a great shot. He was off-balance. He was 22 feet away. He made a great play, and we couldn't answer it."

Calvert Hall held its biggest lead at 55-46 after a free throw by Pierre Jones with 19.8 seconds to play. But the Eagles responded with consecutive three-pointers by Popoko and Brandon Etheridge to close to within three. Neal then sealed it with a free throw with 2.2 seconds remaining.

"Gary's been slumping, and he really stepped up for us," said Calvert Hall senior forward Dwayne Birden, who finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

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