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Goretti's upset bid comes up just short

January 28, 2006|By TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Mount St. Joseph has a trio of players signed to play for Division I programs, but it took one that hasn't signed the dotted line to make the difference in Friday's encounter with St. Maria Goretti.

Senior Kevin Swecker nailed six 3-pointers, including three during critical junctures of the second half that propelled the visiting Gaels past the homestanding Gaels 52-46 in Baltimore Catholic League action at the Gael Center.

Ranked ninth nationally by USA Today and loaded with size and talent, Mount St. Joseph maintained its unbeaten record at 25-0 (9-0 BCL), but not until it survived a huge fight from Goretti (8-15, 2-7).

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"We had opportunities to win," said Goretti coach Cokey Robertson. "(St. Joseph) is the No. 9 team and tonight, I thought we played like the No. 10 team."

Down 11-2 early, Goretti fought back to tie the game at 21-21 with 3.5 seconds left in the first half on two free throws by Kevin Breslin.

From that point, the heat was on both Gaels teams.

Gene Johnson and Andrew Chambers each hit two buckets and Breslin had one as Goretti zoomed to a 31-26 lead with 3:55 remaining in the third period.

"We moved well in our zone defense and took care of the basketball to get back in the game," said Robertson.

Goretti forced 12 of St. Joseph's 16 turnovers during the middle two periods.

About 70 seconds later, following a patient defensive effort, Goretti took a 33-26 lead after Breslin stole the ball and went end-to-end.

Enter Swecker, a 6-foot-3 senior who kept St. Joseph in striking distance with a pair of bombs on the way to knocking down Goretti's lead to 36-32 after three quarters.

Dejaun Goodwin hit a jumper to knot the game at 36-36 before Swecker struck again from the left wing for a 39-38 lead, St. Joseph's first of the second half. Goretti's Kevin Brashears put his Gaels back on top 40-39, followed by Chase Adams' only goal of the game to give St. Joseph the lead for good at 41-40.

Down the stretch, Goretti missed seven shots while 6-8 Louis Birdsong put an exclamation point down for St. Joseph with a pair of slam dunks.

"For some reason, the one thing we didn't do was recognize the kid on the wing (Swecker)," said Robertson. "I think the kids were so concerned with the inside, thinking they couldn't back off."

While Birdsong is headed to George Mason University, Adams off to Centenary and junior Dino Gregory set to join Maryland, it was Swecker's team-high 20 points that keyed St. Joseph.

"Coaches just aren't recognizing that (Swecker) is more than just a shooter and I don't understand that," said St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey. "He is a pure basketball player."

Breslin led Goretti with 14 points and Chambers posted a double-double with 11 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds.

"It's a disappointing loss," said Chambers. "We had a good zone defense, we were patient on offense, but we didn't recognize the 3."

St. Joseph, which is gunning for a second straight 30-plus win season and a fourth straight BCL title, won despite committing 17 turnovers. Goretti had nine.

"We know we're being gunned for by everyone," Clatchey said. "Goretti was well-prepared and we tip our hats to them, they played an outstanding game."

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