Clippers surge past the Cardinals with a big fourth quarter effort


The Clippers enjoy first sectional championship since 2008 as they advance to play Springfield

COLUMBIANA, OHIO (WKBN) – The third-seeded Columbiana Clippers used a big fourth quarter to pull away from the sixth-seeded Cardinal Mooney Cardinals Friday night 58-47 to capture the Clipper’s first sectional title since 2008.

“The program has elevated itself because of the kids.  The kids have bought in and they want to work and do all the right things and that’s why we are in this position.  The program has come a long way in the past four years.  I’m not only excited about today, but where it’s going,” an elated Clippers coach Todd Johnson said.

“We started playing this game in fourth grade so eight years of hard work and it’s paying off so far.  But we’re not done yet, we’re just getting started,” senior guard Carter Pasco added.

The Clippers improve to 19-4 on the season and will now play a District III semi-final game against the Springfield Tigers Tuesday night at Salem High School with tip-off set for 7:00 PM.  The Cardinals close their season with a 12-12 mark.

Sean Whitehead would lead the Clippers in scoring with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Hunter Zentner added 10 points and 8 caroms.  Mathew Mazei would also help on the boards with 7 rebounds and a blocked shot.

With the Clippers clinging to just a 4-point advantage at 36-32 at the end of the third quarter, the Clippers recaptured the momentum three minutes into the fourth quarter when Pasco converted a fast break into a bucket, followed by a three-pointer by teammate Dalton Whitehair to give the Clippers a 41-33 advantage.  The Cardinals would cut the deficit down to 7 at 45-38 with just under two minutes remaining, but Whitehair would connect on another trey to give the Clippers the momentum to close the game.

“Dalton came in and was absolutely a spark plug off the bench,” Johnson said.  “That is a kid that works at his craft tirelessly.  The kid is a knockdown shooter.  And he hit a couple of big ones for us tonight.”

“Our defense leads to our offense,” Pasco added.  “As soon as we get a defensive stop we are always trying to push the ball up the court, and it just leads to good things.  And as soon as one person starts scoring, our whole team starts scoring.”

The Clippers held an 11-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and would double up the Cardinals at 20-10 at the 4:24 mark of the second frame following a basket by Pasco.  The Clippers held an 8-point, 25-17 advantage at the half.

The Clippers began to pull away from the Cardinals to start the second half as they would build a 14-point lead, 33-19 at the 5:11 mark of the third quarter when Pasco connected on his third bucket of the night.  But the Cardinals showed a lot of heart as they battled back with a 12-3 run to close the first half making it 36-32 when guard Sonny Rodriguez hit a basket with just four ticks left on the clock.

“We knew there was a run coming,” Johnson stated.  “But one of the nice things about having a veteran-laden group is that we have been in this position before.  Not in this type of pressure situation, but we have been in this position before where we had to fight and claw, and every possession mattered.”

Cardinals coach Carey Palermo was feeling good about their situation going into the final period, “I felt we had all the momentum, but I don’t think we played well.  We didn’t really execute in the half-court against their zone, and they had a lot to do with that.  I thought we really had some momentum going from the middle to the end of the third quarter, they got out to 14 and we battled back.”

The loss overshadowed a tremendous performance by junior Michael Pelini as he scored a game-high 20 points, including 4 three-pointers, and 6 rebounds. Sonny Rodriguez came off the bench to score 15.  Devon Jenkins added 6 rebounds to help the Cardinals on the boards.

“We won some big games, beat Poland, beat Ursuline twice, beat Fitch, we did some things that haven’t been done at Mooney in a long time.  Going into next year, it’s just a matter of the senior class taking the next jump, whatever that is,” Palermo remarked on the Cardinal’s future.

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