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Knights' hopes vanish into Goretti's thin air

February 07, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

Cokey Robertson was looking for some oxygen.

That's sometimes hard to come by at St. Maria Goretti, especially since the longtime coach is known for his ability to take the air out of the ball.

Still, in the final seconds against Middletown, Robertson was keeping what little bit of atmosphere he had all to himself.

"We were holding our breath over there," Robertson said after the Gaels held on for a 58-57 victory over Middletown on Tuesday. "We have been in so many of those games and have lost. It was nice to have one go our way."

To say the least, it was a breath of fresh air ... but it didn't come easily.

It was in doubt until the final buzzer as the Knights still had a chance to win in the final 2.5 seconds. It all came down to a baseline inbounds play that went to Winston Towns - the third option - who came up short on a 12-foot baseline jumper.

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It ended a game that went from slow paced to fast action to all but stagnant in the course of 20 minutes. In fact, only two baskets - one by each team - were scored in the final 5:22. Thirteen of the final 17 points came on foul shots.

"I was very proud of the way my kids played," said Middletown coach Jon Jarrett. "They gave it their all. If we had sunk a few more foul shots, it would have made a difference."

Goretti's patient halfcourt offense featured an ocean of motion and masses of passes in the first half, but few points. The Gaels (10-15) did much of their damage in transition off turnovers and led 15-8 after one period and 28-23 at the half.

Middletown (12-5) owned a 45-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter, before the two teams battled through five ties and three lead changes in the final eight minutes. The Knights got back in the game after a sluggish start by forcing the tempo.

"That's how they play. You don't want to get behind Goretti," Jarrett said. "Once we got down, I told the kids that Goretti might end up scoring points on us because we were going to speed things up to our tempo."

It worked until the foul-shooting portion of the saga.

Brendan Engle hit three of four foul shots, including two with 24.6 seconds remaining, to give the Gaels a 58-55 lead. Tyler Ausherman countered with a layup with 14.5 seconds left to make it 58-57.

The chess match between Robertson and Jarrett began. After a pair of timeouts, Goretti's John Duhring was fouled and went to the line for two shots with 9.7 remaining. He missed both shots.

"Our sophomore, Engle, stepped up and hit those shots," Robertson said. "We wanted to get the ball to (Logan) Bolinger, because he's our best foul shooter, but we couldn't get him the ball."

Middletown grabbed the rebound and charged up the floor with Jarrett calling timeout, but the referees didn't notice his actions until 2.5 seconds were left.

The Knights tried to win on the inbounds play, but Goretti defended Middletown's first two options, forcing the pass to Towns for the desperation shot.

"We wanted to work it to (Paul) Crone on a curl off a screen, but Goretti defended it well," Jarrett said. "It all broke down from there."

Breslin and Duhring led Goretti with 14 points each while Bolinger added 11. Goretti hit 15 of 20 shots from the foul line, including 9 of 12 in the final five minutes, while Middletown hit just 11 of 15 foul shots, including 5 of 8 down the stretch. Crone led the Knights with 14 points.

"That's a big win for us," Robertson said. "We have had a bad run and needed some wins in the worse way. We have two big league games coming up and need to work out of the cellar so we don't have to face Towson Catholic in the first round of the tournament."

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