It took Catholic University two overtimes to land the knockout punch on St. Joseph's last night but the Cardinals finally did it -- with all 10 players down on the floor at the final buzzer to end a stunning 68-67 win over the Hawks in Brookland Gym.
The Cardinals (2-3) never trailed after the first half but could not put St. Joe's away at the foul line, giving the visitors a chance to win the game in the final seconds.
"We played a perfect game except for the foul shots," Catholic Coach Jack Kvancz said, "We finally had to give them the ball at the end to win it. We had to win it on defense."
The Cardinal defense won it after point guard Donnie Farrell, who played a superb floor game the entire 50 minutes, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left and CU leading 68-67.
St. Joe Coach Jim Lynam called time to set a final play. "We wanted to get it inside either to (Marcellus) Williams or John Smith," Lynam, former coach at American, said. "We never did get the shot we wanted."
The Hawks didn't get the shot they wanted because the Cardinals, playing a matchup zone, overplayed Williams and Smith, and the Hawks could not get the ball inside.
Finally, with the clock down to five seconds, Kevin Van Osten threw up a 20-foot jump shot. It hit the front of the rim and bounced high with all 800 people in the gym seemingly in pursuit.
The ball ended up in the hands of St. Joe's Mike Morrow who popped a quick jumper from the lane -- short. Catholic's Bill Dankos grabbed it and fell on it, almost like a recovered fumble, with all the Hawks on top as time ran out.
It marked the second year in a row Catholic has beaten St. Joseph's, now 2-2, by one point.
"What a great feeling," said Dankos, who led all scorers with 20 points. "It felt like we had to win the thing three times. Every time I looked up, it was 10 seconds left and we're trying to hang on."
The Cardinals actually spent the last 25 minutes of the game trying to hang on. They took the lead late in the first half, 31-29, on a Dankos jump shot, stretched it to 33-29 at half, then scored the frist six points of the second half to lead 39-29 with 16 minutes left.
At that point, the Hawks had not scored for seven minutes. "That's where we lost the game," Lynam said. "We were up six and stopped getting back and setting up on defense. We let them get a bunch of open shots and they took advantage."
St. Joe's, most notably guard Bryan Warrick, who led them with 18 points, finally got cranked up at that point and quickly cut the lead to 44-41 on a Warrick jumper with 11:16 to play.
Kvancz called time and ordered his spread offense. Lynam responded with a zone trap and the two teams played chess the rest of the way.
Farrell, who dished out 10 assists while handling the ball almost flawlessly, ran the show for the Cardinals and with 2:49 left CU still led, 55-51, and appeared home free.
But the Cardinals could not make their free throws, missing four of seven down the stretch. The Hawks finally got even on at 57-57 John Smith's follow shot with 31 seconds left.
CU held for a final shot but Joe Colletta, who sat out most of the last five minutes with a sprained ankle, missed a 15-foot at the buzzer. "Wide open and I missed," Colletta said. "I should have had it."
After 40 minutes, the Hawks were even. "I told the kids this was like a street fight," Kvancz said. "We couldn't back down now. We had them hurt. We had to put them away, keep punching even if we were dazed."
Colletta, who finished with 12 points along with Mike Neville, scored four points, and CU quickly jumped up by four, 63-59. But the Cardinals missed three of four free throws in the last two minutes and St. Joe's, which out-rebounded CU 44-37, got even at 63 on two Smith free throws with 1:08 left.
Catholic center Danny Murray missed a short bank shot with 40 seconds left but Smith, after St. Joe's held for the last shot, lost the ball out of bounds as time again ran out.
A Dankos layup off a gorgeous Farroll pass put the Cardinals ahead for good -- finally -- with 2:05 left -- at 67-65 in the second OT, but again they only made one Bill Dooley got the 68th point) of three foul shots in the last minute, setting up the wild finish after Farrell's miss.