For most of Fridays matchup against the Monsignor Scanlan boys basketball team, the Cathedral Prep Crusaders seemed to be on cruise control. Led by the CHSAAs leading scorer, Bradd Wierzbicki, and fellow senior Ray Tinneny, the team from the small school just behind the Queens Center Mall appeared headed for an easy win and another crown.
But Scanlan never stopped coming, pulling within four late in the fourth before Cathedral hit 13-of-14 free throws down the stretch to safely put away the victory, 71-60.
I think we have a tendency sometimes were not used to playing with a lead, said first-year head coach Frank McQuail, an assistant principal at Cardozo High School. We sometimes get a little too comfortable and maybe stop doing what we do. We play our game, up and down, and cant really worry too much about the score or the clock.
Theyre kids, theyre going to make mistakes, he added. They might get a little tight sometimes, but thats part of the game.
Cathedral played its game to a tee early on, as Rich Scherne, who sat most of the season recovering from ACL surgery, drilled a three-pointer to kick off the scoring. The team threatened to run away with the game early, going up 19-10 on a basket by Wierzbicki, who led all scorers with 20 points.
The Crusaders got the lead to 13 on another three by Scherne (17 points) at the 3:13 mark of the second quarter, but a mini Scanlan run closed the gap to nine at the break, 36-27.
Wierzbicki scored the first six points of the second half and Scherne made it eight straight for Cathedral, which extended the lead to 17, 44-27. The Crusaders were still in control heading into the fourth with a seemingly comfortable 49-37 advantage.
Scanlan played their hearts out, McQuail said. They tried everything they could to stop [Wierzbicki] and he still found ways.
A 13-6 run by Scanlan (12-14) narrowed the gap to five with 2:35 remaining, and a three by James Tyndal (17 points) got the Bronx school within four with just under two minutes to play.
Thats when Cathedral had to show its shooting touch at the line.
Theres a little nerves, Wierzbicki said. But when you make big free throws down the stretch, no team is going to beat you, not when you have the lead.
Tournament MVP Tinneny (13 points), Bradd Wierzbicki, Bradds twin brother Brett Wierzbicki (14 points), Scherne and Brian Chambers all went to the line in the final to secure the win, validating that Cathedral had never been a one-man team.
We are not a one-man show, McQuail said. I knew we were good. I said to the kids at the start of the year, We can go as far as we want. We had a really good summer together and I knew we had some kids who could play. We have some great kids and they really responded.
For Bradd Wierzbicki, the win polished off a successful season and career.
All points aside, its nothing without the championships, Bradd Wierzbicki said. The championships is the greatest feeling in the world. We went out and did it tonight. Im very proud of the guys. I think we just came out and just went at them. We didnt hold back. We didnt play to lose, we played to win.
Cathedral Prep (18-7) advances to the CHSAA C state championship Sunday at Fordham. A win earns the team a trip to the state Federation Tournament in Glens Falls the following weekend.
Wheelchair tryouts: Tryouts will be held for the Queens boys team for the upcoming Wheelchair Classic at Holy Cross High School March 13, 17 and 21 at 5:30 p.m. The tryouts are open to all junior and seniors boys high school players from Queens and Long Island.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2003 Community News Group
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