The A.C. Flora and Cardinal Newman boys basketball teams have gotten into this little habit of getting together for a slugfest the last several years, giving hoops aficionados a look at two of the Midlands’ best teams and a taste of what the next three months are likely to bring.
The latest tasty dish was served Tuesday, December 3, at Cardinal Newman, where Flora’s Falcons dropped in on the Cardinals for a visit and got a big defensive second half and clutch free throw shooting from JB Moore down the stretch to defeat the Cardinals 57-53.
“Coach (Philip) Deter does such an exceptional— and I mean exceptional— job over here with these kids,” Flora head coach Josh Staley said of his Cardinal Newman counterpart. “ Whether we play them home or away, or wherever, we know it is going to be uncomfortable, but it is going to make us better. My kids played extremely hard, so that normally results in a pretty good game.”
The Falcons had three starters in double figures. Patrick Iriel finished with 16 points, Robert McCray V chipped in 17, and JB Moore had a game-high 21 points. Tyrell Green added two, and Riches McDaniel had one.
Josh Beadle led the Cardinals with 15 points, Thomas Tyler added 14, Silas Christie and Payton Cooper had eight points each, Shanye Monsanto and LJ White got four each, and Chase Robinson had three.
Cardinal Newman went on a 16-3 run to close out the first half, surrendering three free throws to the Falcons’ Moore. The Cardinals got help from all over with field goals from Cooper, White, and Beadle; four free throws and a field goal from Tyler; a three from Robinson; and a jam from Silas Christie to lead 33-23 at halftime.
The Falcons began chipping away, finally catching the Cards at 39-39 at 6:25 in the fourth on a three from Moore. The Cards lost, then regained the lead at the four-minute mark on a three from Beadle, but a put-back from the Falcons’ Iriel and a free throw from Moore gave the visitors a 47-44 lead. The Cards got to within one again, but a jam from Iriel opened up a three-point lead that the Falcons held down the stretch for the win.
Coach Staley dished out the accolades for the scoring leaders in this outing, a list that is likely to grow longer as the season grows on.
Moore’s 21 points included 10 in the final period, with five free throws down the stretch that held off the Cardinals.
“ We have been on him about stepping it up, “ Staley said. “He is a senior; he spends so much time at this. He is a great kid, a great student. We told him he needed to step it up, and he is doing that.”
Iriel’s 16 points included three momentum changing slam dunks, and he was a force on the boards with rebounding and interior passing. He has recently signed with South Carolina.
“Pat has been consistent all along, getting better each game,” Staley said. “He is living up to the hype, and it is back to work tomorrow. He is a future SEC player now, and if you are going to be an SEC player, you have to dominate. You have to out-rebound everybody, outrun everybody, and that is what he is learning to do.”
McCray’s 17 points included two threes and five free throws.
“It is up to him to be as great as he chooses to be,” Staley said of McCray. “As hard as he works and what he puts into it, it is all in his mind. If he decides to be great, no one can stop him.”
Flora’s goal in the upcoming campaign is a deep playoff run for the chance at a championship, and it is not something Staley shies away from.
“That is always the goal every single year. If that is not your goal at the end of the season, you don’t even need to get started. We are going to go back and try to get better tomorrow and get ready for a very good White Knoll team on Friday.”