CUA holds off second half rally by USMMA to earn 59-55 win

CUA holds off second half rally by USMMA to earn 59-55 win

KINGS POINT, N.Y. – CUA won its third straight game on Friday evening, downing Merchant Marine Academy 59-55 in a tight, hard-fought contest.  The Cardinals (14-3) led 33-21 at the half, only to see the Mariners (6-11) get to within three points with 58 seconds remaining before holding on for the conference road win.

After Darrell Carroll sank a jumper at the 15:18 mark in the second half, CUA was comfortably in front by 17 points, but Michael Farace hit a 3-pointer down the other end for USMMA and the Mariners slowly began to creep back into it.

Brian Lynch's three at the 10:30 mark brought the Mariners to within 47-38 and after Nick Sergio scored on the next possession for Merchant Marine, CUA's lead was down to seven.

Reed Buck's basket with 7:55 remaining made it a five-point spread, but Steve Limberiou buried a 3-pointer to up the Cardinals lead to eight.

Two free throws by Buck with 3:33 to play brought the Mariners to within four, and after Sergio went 1 of 2 at the line two minutes later, the Cardinals lead was down to just three.

CUA's defense tightened up from there though, holding USMMA to just one point for the remainder of the game, and Nate Koenig sank two foul shots with eight ticks remaining to seal the Cardinal win.

Chris Kearney led CUA with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting, while Koenig scored 12 and Limberiou added 11.  CUA did not have a great night shooting the basketball, connecting on only 35% from the field and 28% from downtown.

USMMA held a 42-34 advantage on the backboards, with Sergio leading the way with eight caroms.  Buck (17) and Sergio (10) finished in double figures to lead the Mariners offensively.

The two teams were nearly even in the early going before Kearney splashed a jumper with 11:40 on the first half clock to open up a five-point lead for CUA. 

Koenig's triecta at the 8:21 mark pushed the lead up to nine, 21-12, and after Derek Puhalski sank a three of his own with 6:59 to play, CUA was on top 11.

The lead reached 16 on Koenig's 3-pointer at the 4:46 mark, and 18 on Kearney's jumper with 3:52 to play.  USMMA scored the final six points of the half though, to cut the Cardinals lead to 12 at the break.

On Saturday, CUA will travel to Madison, N.J. to face the Drew Rangers in a 2 p.m. tip-off.

Photography by Marcello Cutti, Jr.