Kolbe Cathedral tops Stratford for third time
Updated 12:05 am, Sunday, February 24, 2013
"He's been carrying us all year," Smith said. "He does everything you could ask of a kid."
Saturday afternoon in the SWC quarterfinals against rival Stratford, Gardner added another move to his increasing bag of tricks -- the banked-in 3-pointer.
Gardner's three off the glass midway through the fourth tied the game and spurred the No. 4 Cougars past the No. 5 Red Devils 56-52 at Masuk.
"I was feeling it," said Gardner, who scored a game-high 20 points. "They gave me the shot so I took it. I take what the defense gives me."
This was a classic "4/5" matchup throughout its 32 nip-and-tuck minutes. Neither side led by more than four points and the largest run was 6-0 by Kolbe early in the second quarter.
A runner by Eric Rankin had given Stratford a 48-45 lead with a little more than three minutes to go in the fourth, setting the stage for Gardner.
On the next trip down the junior swingman answered with his banked-in three at the top of the key to tie it at 48. It was the only 3-pointer made by Kolbe all afternoon.
"He's a great player, but if that doesn't go maybe this thing ends a little different because that was a huge possession," Stratford coach Paul Dudzinski said. "We had our chances. One play, one possession is different, I think we win this game. It didn't happen that way."
Gardner's finish underneath put Kolbe ahead 50-48. Stratford then tied it on a pair of free throws by Bernard Brantley.
Kolbe took the lead for good on a pair of Taivon Jones free throws with 1:25 left. Stratford had a chance to tie it when Brantley cut to the lane and dished the ball to a streaking Nick DiIulio, but his shot was blocked away by Jones.
The Cougars then sealed it from the free throw line to set up a date in the semifinals with top-seeded Bunnell on Tuesday at Newtown at 8 p.m.
Kolbe turned the game around with its perimeter defense, which held Stratford without a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
"They played a lot of 3-2 (zone) to shake us up," Brantley said.
The win improved the Cougars to 3-0 this season against the Red Devils -- all by single-digit margin of victories.
"It's tough to beat a team three times in a row and I told my team that. I told them, play your game and we might win this one," Smith said. "Defensively we played great on the top of the zone. Shoody (Brantley) is a great player, but we had a guy on him all times."
SWC quarterfinals at Masuk
Bernard Brantley 4 7-10 16 Marcus Vereen 5 0-0 11 Will Hudson 0 0-0 0 Eric Rankin 7 0-0 16 Evan Velleca 0 0-0 0 Sam Breiner 2 0-0 5 Aaron Smith 0 0-0 0 Nick DiIlulio 1 2-2 4 Ant Monovich 0 0-0 0 Totals: 19 9-12 52
KOLBE CATHEDRAL (15-5)
Taivon Jones 3 2-2 8 Darnell Stephenson 2 0-3 4 Tyler Underwood 3 2-2 8 Maurice Hill 2 6-6 10 Chris Williams 3 0-1 6 Ian Gardner 8 3-6 20 Totals: 21 13-20 56
STRATFORD............................16 9 16 11--52
KOLBE CATHEDRAL................12 14 15 15--56
3-pointers: S--Brantley, Vereen, Rankin 2, Breiner; KC--Gardner
Technical fouls: KC--Hill