Before they were left on the outside looking in at the NCAA Division III tournament last year, the Goucher Gophers' men's basketball team played Catholic University three times and lost three times by a total of 12 points.
So when this year's 18th-ranked Goucher team kept chipping away at double-digit deficits during a 76-72 loss in last night's Capital Athletic Conference matchup against its 25th-ranked nemesis, there was the feeling that this game might end up every bit as close.
Down 64-50 with nearly 10 minutes remaining, the host Gophers (10-3 overall, 2-1 CAC) fufilled the promise, rallying to within two points with less than a minute remaining before falling to the Cardinals (10-3, 4-0), despite the efforts of Bakari Ward, who scored 18 points.
With 21 seconds remaining, Goucher had the ball after Catholic guard Pat Maloney missed the second of two free throws with the score at 75-72. Ward stumbled while looking for an open shot, but kept his dribble and looped the the ball over to the left corner for Darrian Lee, whose three-point attempt missed with four seconds left.
"I was disappointed that we lost our composure late in the game, but we're happy to come away with a [win] in this gym," said Catholic coach Mike Lonergan, who used Goucher's 1997-98 plight as motivation for his team. "I thought they should have gotten into the tournament, and I told our team that we could be in the same situation if we don't win our league."
The motivation for Catholic was a burden for Goucher, which suffered breakdowns at nearly every important moment in the game. Despite several opportunities, the Gophers never led after the 15: 42 mark in the first half.
"We'd played good teams before," Goucher coach Leonard Trevino said. "But we dug ourselves a big hole. I'd like to think that we were just tight."
As disappointed as Goucher must have been at halftime, down nine points, the team was fortunate not to face a bigger hole. In dominating the game's first 20 minutes, Catholic took advantage of careless play by its opponent.
It wasn't just the 12 turnovers that nearly sunk Goucher in the first half, nor was it the 43 percent shooting from the field that was the result of ill-advised shots and blown layups.
But for a team that is leading the CAC in three-point shooting, Catholic didn't get a lot of respect from Goucher's defense beyond the arc. Though the Cardinals hit only 38.5 percent of their 13 three-point attempts, they did damage with the five they did hit.
Enrico LoCascio (14) was Goucher's second-leading scorer on the night, followed by Todd Sykes, who finished with 12.
CATHOLIC -- Harrington 3-6 4-6 10, Maloney 2-6 4-6 10, Touhey 4-9 2-4 10, Kr.Zeisler 1-5 2-4 4, Gallagher 5-6 2-4 12, Judge 6-7 1-2 16, Kane 2-5 3-4 8, McNiff 0-3 0-0 0, Loughlin 1-1 0-0 2, Ku.Zeisler 0-3 0-0 0, Lepeonka 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 26-53 18-30 76.
GOUCHER -- Burke 0-1 0-0 0, Ward 5-11 7-9 18, Sykes 5-9 2-3 12, Williams 3-9 3-3 9, Doyle 3-4 0-0 6, Schuler 0-1 0-0 0, Lee 4-10 1-2 9, Stolz 0-1 1-2 1, Threatt 1-4 1-1 3, LoCascio 6-8 2-5 14. Totals 27-58 17-25 72.
Halftime--Catholic 40-31. Rebounds--CU 39 (Gallagher 12), GC 35 (Sykes, Doyle 6). Assists--CU 14 (Touhey 5), GC 9 (Williams 4). A--745.
Pub Date: 1/17/99