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Gaels get a grip, weather Blue Storm

December 11, 2003|by CURT HORNBECKER

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - If Cokey Robertson can put his hands on a self-help book about caring for a basketball, he might just make it required reading for his St. Maria Goretti team.

Turnovers - the Gaels' nemesis thus far - nearly proved costly again. But a second-half rally propelled Goretti to a 64-56 win over Mercersburg Academy Wednesday night.

After rallying from a 13-point deficit in the third period behind Joey Spierenburg's seven points, the Gaels established a lead it would never relinquish on a Mike Nelson free throw with 5:55 left in the game.

Poor ball handling - the Gaels turned the ball over 17 times in the first half - allowed the cold-shooting Blue Storm to build the early advantage. But Goretti took much better care of the ball in the second half, while Mercersburg continued to struggle.

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"You can't beat poor teams like that, let alone good teams," said Robertson. "The big difference was our intensity was much better, and we hit the boards better in the second half."

Meanwhile, Mercersburg coach Mark Cubit cited his team's inability to take greater advantage of the Gaels' miscues.

"We didn't shoot the ball well, and that's about it," said Cubit, "We're the type of team that has to hit its shots."

As damaging as the turnovers were in the first half for Goretti, poor free-throw shooting only added to the problem. Goretti hit just 1 of 9 free throws in the second quarter, including missing the front end of all three one-and-one situations.

"We're not a good free throw shooting team," said Robertson, "But we're not usually that bad."

Ironically, it was three critical Mercersburg turnovers, combined with a pair of missed one-and-ones down the stretch, that allowed the Gaels to put the game away.

While St. Maria was making its run in the third period, Mercersburg continued to shoot the ball from 3-point range. Nine of the Blue Storm's 16 attempts from the floor in the third period were from beyond the arc. But Cubit didn't seem to mind the shot selection.

"The kids did a good job getting open shots," said Cubit. "We just didn't hit them."

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