Fourth-quarter rally lifts Mount Vernon in STOP-DWI
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – It was a reality that almost seemed surreal. Mount Vernon, the defending New York State Federation Class AA champions, was trailing Seton Catholic after three quarters in a consolation game of the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic Thursday afternoon.
A loss would have dropped the Knights to 0-2 in the tournament and meant a seventh-place contest at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.
“I think we’re definitely a better team, but we just weren’t playing with our smarts,” senior Randy Stephens said. “We weren’t using our heads and it showed on the scoreboard.”
That all changed in the fourth quarter as Mount Vernon rallied for a 64-48 victory against the Binghamton-area school at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
The difference was a change in the Knights approach in the final eight minutes.
“It was pressure, making the unpretty plays, the plays where you have to sweat and not look good to the audience and then we ran and got into a flow,” Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino said. “I’d like to think that was actually Mount Vernon basketball.”
It was a far cry from the first three quarters when the Knights settled for 3-pointers instead of attacking the basket. That worked out perfectly for Seton Catholic, which was led by Tom Torto, who had a game-high 29 points.
“We bombed away, they boxed out, made some good passes, frustrated us with some backdoor cuts and I think that led to our impatience,” Cimmino said.
Mount Vernon (3-1) was 1-of-11 from 3-point range and that make came from Jamal Lewis after the Knights pushed the ball inside and had back-to-back old-fashioned three-point attempts in the fourth quarter.
“You want to be pretty? Do the dirty work first and own the paint,” Cimmino said. “The war is always the paint. When I saw Randy and Isaiah [Cousins] both get a manly rebound, I knew then that they understood the situation and the possible perils here.”
Led by Stephens, who had 17 points and five rebounds, and Cousins, who added 13 points and eight boards, Mount Vernon went on a 16-3 run to open the fourth quarter and outscored the Saints, 25-7 in the final stanza.
“We played hard, got stops and put the ball in the hole,” Cousins said.
Mount Vernon, which also received 11 points and nine rebounds from Lewis, outrebounded Seton Catholic (4-2), 37-18.
“[Cimmino] just wanted us to drive and play aggressive,” Stephens said. “Launching 3-point shots is easy. He just wanted us to play hard.”
The Knights didn’t do that for a long period of time, but it was enough to earn a win and a date with St. Rita (Ill.) in the fifth place game Friday at 11:15 a.m.
Cimmino will get reacquainted with Gary DeCesare, the former St. Raymond coach. It is the first meeting between the two since an early-morning Beach Ball Classic game in Myrtle Beach, S.C. that saw Ben Gordon go head to head with Julius Hodge.
“He beat us in a pretty close game,” Cimmino said. “He made some moves with the airlines and he got his kids on two different planes and I ended up snowed in.”
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