- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

Catholic University won't have to look too hard to find the reason why it was upset in the second round of the Division III NCAA tournament.
It was an inside job.
Montclair State pounded the Cardinals on the boards and scored short-range baskets in a dominating second half to post a 95-78 victory in the Division III playoffs before a packed house of 1,500 at DuFour Center. The visitors from New Jersey outrebounded Catholic 25-12 after intermission and ended the Cardinals' run of four straight trips to the Sweet 16.
"We had four good years, but it's a terrible to way to end," said senior Matt Hilleary, who was part of the 2001 national champions. The center from Manassas finished strongly with 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
But Hilleary wasn't enough as Montclair outrebounded Catholic 42-30 and had a 54-28 scoring advantage in the paint. The Cardinals cooled off after building a 45-38 lead early in the second half and were helpless as the Red Hawks regularly scored on offensive rebounds as part of a 34-18 run.
Montclair State guard Ben Martinez (24 points) was the catalyst as the Red Hawks pulled away by shooting 54 percent in the second half. Martinez's 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Red Hawks the lead for good at 50-49 with 13:36 to play.
Montclair State will play fellow New Jersey Athletic Conference school Ramapo next week in the round of 16.
Catholic closes with a 24-5 record after losing a second straight game for the first time in five seasons. Mary Washington won the Capital Athletic Conference tournament championship last week at DuFour Center.
"We just had a week and a half in which I feel a lot of our weaknesses were exposed," said Cardinals coach Mike Lonergan, whose team won the CAC regular-season title. "It was just a frustrating game. A team that played basically with six guys came into our gym and took it to us."
The middle part of the second half was close, and a twisting layup by Catholic's Will Morley cut the deficit to 62-59 with 9:00 left. But the Red Hawks answered with four straight points to start a 12-3 run. A backdoor layup by Joe Pecora capped the stretch to make it 72-63 with 5:57 remaining, and Catholic never threatened again.
The Red Hawks had all five starters in double figures, including Pierre Mitchell with 19 points and Joseph Thomas with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Montclair flustered the Cardinals after intermission with an attacking defense after Catholic made eight of 14 3-pointers in the first half. Red Hawks coach Ted Fiore changed the defense at halftime after noticing a tendency by Catholic players to go to their right.
"We noticed they were a dominant-handed team," said Fiore, a former coach at Division I St. Peter's in Jersey City. "We were trying to push them to their weak hand so we would take them out of their comfort zone."
The strategy worked as most Cardinals were forced to their left hands and made just two of nine 3-pointers in the second half. Catholic also hurt its cause with 18 turnovers as an overall strong season came to an bitter and abrupt conclusion.
"It's not the most fun way to end your career, losing in your own gym," said Craig Avallone, a senior guard. "They came into our place and beat us. They played their game."
Catholic led 38-36 after a see-saw half that had 11 lead changes and two ties. The Cardinals made eight of 14 (57 percent) 3-pointers but just six of 17 (35 percent) on shots inside the arc.
Catholic briefly took charge with an 11-0 run late in the half. Blair Mills scored the first eight points in the stretch on two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws. Kevin Wise closed the run with a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 34-26 with 3:12 left before intermission.
Montclair State immediately answered with a 6-0 stretch. The Red Hawks had a chance to tie in the final seconds as Mitchell drove for a layup that was swatted out of bounds by Hilleary as time expired. It was Hilleary's third block of the half.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide