Maloney's 29 sends CUA to final

SALEM, Va. - Senior Pat Maloney did it again. One game after scoring his career playoff high, he topped it with 29 points, including all 14 of his free throws, to lead Catholic University to an 82-77 victory over No. 3 Ohio Northern in one semifinal of the Final Four on Friday, March 16.

The win, before 3,140 at Salem Civic Center, puts the Cardinals (27-5) in the NCAA Division III national championship game against William Paterson (25-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday. Fox Sports South will televise the game live. The No. 11 Pioneers, who have split with CUA the past two years in the playoffs, defeated No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan (23-7), 67-52.

Maloney, who recorded a game-high seven assists, hit four free throws in the final 22.9 seconds to extend a one-point lead to the final margin. The Cards trailed by as much as 11, 66-55 with 8:14 to go, but outscored the Polar Bears 27-11 down the stretch. Fifteen of the points came from the line as CUA finished 33 of 39 (84.6 %) from the charity stripe.

The victory was the Cardinals' fourth second-half comeback win in five games of the 2001 NCAA playoffs. Maloney attributed the Cards' ability to rally late to their experience and character.

"With our five seniors, we've been in situations the past four years where we know how to handle ourselves," said Maloney, who set the Division III national semifinal record for consecutive free throws. "Also, there's the adversity we've dealt with off the court. Last year, one of our housemates, Anthony Bottoni, died in a car accident.

"Then this year, with (teammate Brian Meyer's sister) Lindsay dying, and with two of our players mothers being seriously ill, a deficit at the end of the game really isn't that big of a deal when you've been dealing with things like that."

In winning for the 15th consecutive time, CUA, ranked No. 14 by, ended the Polar Bears' 18-game winning streak. ONU (27-3) is No. 3 in the final regular-season poll. It was the Cardinals' 10th win by five or fewer points.

"We're in this together," Maloney said. "I think this win, the way we hung in all game and then made a run at the end, pretty much typified our whole season."

Matt Hilleary, who blocked two shots and posted his third consecutive double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, agreed with Maloney.

"This is just the way our season has gone, pretty much, the whole way," Hilleary said. "We don't win on talent, we win on heart. We win with five guys on the court, not with any one or two."

Freshman Chad Bostelman led the Polar Bears with 24 points and seven rebounds. Fellow rookie Jim Conrad added 17 points. The pair finished a combined 9 of 19 from 3-point range. Bostelman's trey with 3:20 remaining gave the northwestern Ohio school a 76-72 lead.

Cardinal freshman Will Morley (14 points, five rebounds) put CUA on top for good, 77-76 on a basket at the 1:33 mark. ONU's leading scorer Kris Oberdick, who entered the contest averaging 19.1 points, was held to 12 points on 2-for-14 shooting. The senior missed the second of two free throws with 36 seconds left to deny the Polar Bears the chance to tie.

Cardinal Coach Mike Lonergan tied Fred Rice's school-record for career victories with win No. 176. It didn't look good for his ninth team at CUA in the first half when the Cards twice fell behind by 10 points. His ONU counterpart, Joe Campoli, said he never felt his team's double-digit leads were safe.

"Not with the 3-pointer," said Campoli, who led the Polar Bears to the national title in 1993. "When you're this far along, people won't quit. A 10-point lead is not that big these days."

CUA pulled within two, 31-29, at halftime and went on to tie the Division III record for free throws made in the Final Four. It made 25 of 29 (86.2 %) in the second half.

Lonergan said he planned to savor the moment, at least for one night.

"Every coach told me, ‘Enjoy the moment, don't over-analyze opponents and all that stuff,' " he said. "And I want our players to enjoy this week. The city of Salem and the NCAA have treated us first class. ...

"I'm just going to try to soak in (Friday's) victory. We're playing for the national championship. I definitely want to win, and that's what I'll stress (Saturday) - ‘now that we're here, let's win the thing.' But we're going to enjoy this evening."