- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Catholic coach Mike Lonergan fought for his players against the bureaucracy of the NCAA Division III competition committee and won.

Around 2 a.m. Sunday, Lonergan sent an e-mail to the NCAA assistant director of championships stating reasons why Catholic should play host to an NCAA sectional. At that time, no site had been determined for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds. Lonergan saw his Cardinals situated in the same bracket as Elizabethtown (Pa.) and feared the worst.

Elizabethtown went 25-2 during the regular season and appeared the odds-on favorite to play host to the next two rounds of the tournament. Lonergan's e-mail must have had an impact, because Catholic's DuFour Center is one of the gateways to this year's Division III Final Four.

"I just asked him to look at the facts again because they had said nothing was set," Lonergan said. "I felt I had to fight for our guys a little bit. Look at us five years in a row the Sweet 16, and for five years in a row not host? That just doesn't seem fair."

Now defending national champion Catholic will play host to Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds beginning tonight at 8 against Clark (Mass.) at DuFour, where Catholic went 17-0 this season.

Tonight's first game, at 6 , matches Elizabethtown (26-2) against Cabrini (Pa.). Cabrini (19-11) is coming off a stunning 47-43 upset over William Paterson (N.J.) which beat Catholic 71-68 in the Cardinals' season opener.

All Catholic (26-2) has to do is win two at home tonight and tomorrow to make a repeat trip to Salem, Va., for the Final Four.

"It's huge, we haven't lost here this year, we shoot very well here, we're comfortable here and we don't have to travel," said 6-foot-6 center Matt Hilleary, the Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year. "It's as big of an advantage as you can get."

Against Clark (22-5), the Cardinals will have a size advantage with Hilleary and burly power forward Will Morley. Lonergan plans to pound the ball inside to his posts. Hilleary, who is more of a finesse player, leads the Cardinals averaging 17.4 points and 9.1 rebounds. The 6-5 Morley is a banger with a nice mid-range shot.

"Coach has been saying all week that they are pretty short inside a lot of perimeter guys so the first thing is to get the ball inside and see what happens," said Morley, who averages 11.9 points and 6.1 rebounds.

While Catholic should win the war in the paint, one of the Cardinals' wings will have to contain Cougars forward Trevor Walker, a deadly 3-point shooter. Last season in the Elite Eight, Walker came off the bench and made nine 3-pointers in Catholic's narrow 82-78 win.

"It felt like he made 20," Lonergan said.

Walker is coming off a 7-for-17 performance from behind the 3-point arc in Clark's 101-72 romp over Staten Island. For the season, Walker has made 87 of 224 (38.8 percent) 3-pointers. As a team, the Cougars shoot 39 percent (259 of 663) from behind the arc. The Cougars are never out of a game with such perimeter firepower.

"I don't think that happens too often, games like he had against us last year," Hilleary said of Walker's off-the-bench bombing. "Especially if we know it's coming. I seriously doubt that it's going to happen again."


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