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Gaels get back over .500 hump

February 03, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

St. Maria Goretti has had plenty of basketball action in the past eight days, and the No. 6 Gaels made sure it was a productive sequence on the schedule.

The Gaels forged back over .500 Sunday afternoon in the Gael Center with a 47-40 boys basketball victory over Towson Catholic, their fourth in succession dating back to last Sunday's win over Calvert Hall. Goretti now stands 14-13 - its first time over .500 since Dec. 20, when it was 5-4 -having won seven of its last 10 outings.

The victory also forged a tie in the Baltimore Catholic League with Towson Catholic at 3-7 as the Gaels seek to advance higher in the BCL standings and avoid a postseason play-in game.

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"We want to go through February and finish the season strong," Goretti coach Cokey Robertson said. "I think we showed some character out there today. We're beginning to mold together as a team."

Goretti's character was severely tested in the very early stages of the final quarter by Towson (10-11), which found itself down by as much as 14 points through the second period and partially into the third.

The Gaels led 23-13 at halftime, missing only four of its 13 field goal attempts and despite being out-rebounded, 14-7.

However, Towson's Charlie Griffin dropped in three 3-pointers in the third period, before hitting another bomb in the first 15 seconds of the fourth quarter to cut Goretti's lead to 34-33.

After a free throw by Goretti's Joey Breslin, Carroll Mitchell knotted the score at 37-37 with two free tosses at the 7:13 mark.

Derrick Davis retaliated quickly with a baseline drive at 6:50 for a 37-35 advantage. Towson had opportunities to regain the lead and Goretti had chances to extend, but neither team scored until 2:32 remained when Davis was intentionally fouled by Griffin following a Towson turnover.

Davis sank both free throws and on the inbounds play, fed Breslin under the hoop for a quick two and a six-point lead. Breslin followed with two free throws, Davis canned a basket on an assist from Joey Spierenburg and the Gaels were up by eight.

"That was a special play out of bounds after the foul," Robertson said. "That sequence gave us some breathing room. We almost got hung on the ropes."

With patience offensively against a 2-3 Towson zone, Goretti needed only 29 shots in the win and connected 18 times for 67 percent. In the patient team mold, Goretti's baskets included 12 assists - six from Davis - and that made Robertson happy.

"We created movement early and maybe we got a little tired in the third period, but we got it back," Robertson said.

Davis, who scored a team-high 15 points and pulled down five rebounds, was happy with the recent Goretti results.

"Everyone on this team has stepped up, and we've all come to play this past week," Davis echoed. "I think one of the biggest reasons is because our defensive intensity has been a real plus."

Goretti extracted a small measure of revenge with the victory, having lost to Towson, 48-29, on Jan. 5. It was only a small measure due partly to the Owls playing with a short roster of six players. Four were missing due to injuries and academics, including Darren Hopkins, one of Towson's top players.

In the previous loss, Jamal Smith sank 23 points on Goretti but had only six Sunday, largely to the defensive efforts of Spierenburg.

"I took the responsibility to try and work hard on him," said Spierenburg, who also had six points, four rebounds and three assists. "But I got lots of back-side help from my teammates. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team."

Breslin added 14 points and six rebounds while Mason Herman had nine points, hitting all four of his field-goal attempts.

If the Gaels are beginning to mold as a team, the casting will need to continue to strengthen this week with home games Tuesday against St. John's at Prospect Hall and Friday against a rugged Cardinal Gibbons.

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