- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

Catholic University's tower of power to the rescue.

For 30 minutes, the defending NCAA Division III national champion had its hands full last night against pesky Goucher College. The Goucher fans even started chanting "overrated" in Catholic's house a bold sign of disrespect.

Matt Hilleary must have been personally offended by their brashness because Catholic's 6-foot-6 post player took over the game in the final 10 minutes. He scored 13 of his of his game-high 19 points in the final 10:37 to lead the Cardinals to a 77-61 victory in the semifinals of the Capital Athletic Conference at DuFour Center.

The Cardinals (24-2) will play host to Marymount (19-8) in the CAC championship game tomorrow at 4 p.m. Marymount handed Catholic one of its two losses, 79-70 on Feb.9 in Arlington. Marymount, which advanced with a 103-100 victory at York (Pa.), is coached by Chuck Driesell, son of Georgia State coach Lefty Driesell.

Catholic outscored Goucher 26-13 in the final 10 minutes, and Hilleary accounted for half of the Cardinals' points down the stretch. He brought the crowd to its feet with a thunderous two-handed dunk with 6:16 left that stretched Catholic's lead to 63-49.

"Anytime you have guys penetrating and dishing like we have, I'm going to try and finish as well as I can," said Hilleary, who entered this game averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds.

Five other Cardinals scored in double figures. Shooter Kevin Wise scored 15 points, burly forward Will Morley added 11, guard Craig Avallone contributed 10, backup point guard Bobby Henning scored 11, and Blair Mills added 10 points off the bench.

Early foul trouble for Hilleary, the Cardinals' leading scorer, and 13 Catholic turnovers kept Goucher (13-13) in the game in the first half.

Hilleary, who posted a monster game against St. Mary's (Md.) in the tournament's first round with 26 points and 16 rebounds, played just five minutes and scored four points with two rebounds before intermission.

"We couldn't score, not because we were missing shots; we kept turning the ball over," Catholic coach Mike Lonergan said.

Even without Hilleary, who is from Manassas, Va., on the floor, the Cardinals had opportunities to put away the Gophers. The Cardinals went on an 8-0 run with 8:08 before halftime and extended their lead to 21-9.

Then Goucher guard Curtis McNeill heated up. McNeill, a 6-foot southpaw, scored all seven of his first-half points in the last 7:15 of the half, including a 15-foot pull-up jumper from the left wing that beat the halftime buzzer.

Apparently, the Cardinals had a soft spot in their hearts for the bricklayers from Baltimore. Goucher shot 26 percent (7 of 27) in the first half, but trailed only 29-25 at halftime.

Catholic had more assists (11) than Goucher field goals (seven) in the half and only led by four points.


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