BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – When Carl Arrigale found out Mount Vernon was his team’s first round opponent in the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic, the Neumann Goretti (Pa.) coach thought the joke was on him.
“I actually thought he was kidding, that he was messing with me,” Arrigale said of assistant coach John Mosco. “I couldn’t imagine what the rest of the tournament looked like if we were getting them in the first round.”
The feeling was mutual for Bob Cimmino.
“When we saw it on their schedule, we said ‘Wow, that’s a tough first round game,’” the Mount Vernon coach said.
Cimmino was right as Mount Vernon fell to Neumann Goretti, 65-61, Wednesday afternoon at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
“It’s a little unusual to have a high caliber team like that early…Hopefully that’s like some cold air on our face,” Cimmino said. “We’ve got to come to play all the time and we’ve got to get better at what we do.”
The game, which easily could be a semifinal in most tournaments, lived up to the advanced billing and was a battle between similar squads. The two met last year in the Cancer Research Classic, a one-day event in Wheeling, West Virginia with the Knights pulling out a 75-66 win.
The hero that day was Jabarie Hinds, who scored 35 points, and forward Jarrel Marshall had a double-double.
However, Hinds is now at West Virginia University and Marshall is sidelined with a concussion. On Wednesday, Mount Vernon (2-1) came out sluggish offensively and immediately had to dig itself out of a hole.
“We left our offense back in Westchester early on in the game and against a good team like that you have to expend a lot of energy to recover and catch up,” Cimmino said. “I was pleased we fought back against a good team.”
The Knights did get back into the game on the strength of their swarming pressure defense and took their first lead on a Josh Doughty layup to cap a 10-1 run with 3:11 left in the third quarter.
There was seven lead changes, but Billy Shank made sure Neumann Goretti (5-1) came away with the victory. The heady senior guard led the Saints with 17 points, including a pair of huge baskets in the final 4:34 of the second half.
Shank followed up his own miss with a putback to cap a 10-1 run that put Neumann Goretti in front, 51-43, and then immediately responded to a Qwadene Lovell 3-pointer that cut Mount Vernon’s deficit to one with a dagger 3-pointer with 1:25 left.
“It’s good to come down here and get a win over them in the first round and move on,” Shank said. “Hopefully the next game is a little easier.”
Ja’quan Newton had 14 points and John Davis added 13 points and 14 rebounds for Neumann Goretti, which takes on St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) in the semifinals Thursday night.
Will Robinson had a monster game for Mount Vernon, which faces Seton Catholic in the consolation round Thursday afternoon. The 6-foot-3 senior forward had 17 points and six rebounds off the bench, Randy Stephens added 13 points and Isaiah Cousins had 10 points and six steals after a scoreless first half.
Trailing 63-61 with 3.2 seconds left, the Knights nearly pulled off a miracle win, but Lovell was ruled out of bounds at halfcourt on the inbound pass by Stephens.
“I don’t think we brought our A-game and we competed with a very good team,” Cimmino said. “In the long run, it will help us, but it’s like some nasty cough medicine right now. You really don’t want to take it, but you probably think it’s going to be better for you eventually.”
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