Camden Catholic boys beat Bishop Eustace
Kyle Cooney knows his role for Camden Catholic: Play defense, move the basketball, make an occasional open jumper. Burying a turnaround, fadeaway, three-pointer at the halftime buzzer isn't part of the job description for the scrappy senior who entered this season with zero varsity experience.
Kyle Cooney knows his role for Camden Catholic: Play defense, move the basketball, make an occasional open jumper.
Burying a turnaround, fadeaway, three-pointer at the halftime buzzer isn't part of the job description for the scrappy senior who entered this season with zero varsity experience.
But, hey, when the clock is winding down and there aren't other options, even the most diligent and dutiful of complementary players will let one fly and see what happens.
"I don't think," Cooney said, "I could make that shot in practice if I tried."
This wasn't practice. This was Camden Catholic vs. Bishop Eustace Prep in a renewal of one of South Jersey's fiercest rivalries as well as an early-season clash of unbeaten Top 10 teams.
And when Cooney's shot splashed through the rim, it was the best sign yet that this is a new season both for the Irish and their point guard.
"We had enough bad luck last season," Camden Catholic coach Matt Crawford said after his team's impressive 51-33 victory on the Crusaders' home court. "We're due for some good luck. We'll take it."
Junior forward Dominic Dunn scored 15 points with seven rebounds and sophomore center Baba Ajike generated 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks for Camden Catholic (3-0, 1-0 in the Olympic National), the No. 7 team in the Inquirer Top 25.
Senior forward Jesse Saul scored nine for No. 5 Bishop Eustace (2-1, 0-1).
"Give all the credit to Camden Catholic," Bishop Eustace coach Bob Falconiero said. "They made us make mistakes and they didn't make mistakes.
"Camden Catholic kicked our butt. You've got to be ready to play against them and we were a step slow all night.
"We can't hang our heads. Good teams don't do that. We need to get back to work and learn from this. We aren't going away."
The 5-foot-10 Cooney was a junior-varsity player as a sophomore and junior. He missed the final six weeks of last season with an ankle injury.
But with the Irish looking for solid guard play to work with the team's young big men, Cooney and senior football star Nazir Streater stepped up during preseason workouts.
"The word that comes to mind with Kyle is 'coachable,'" Crawford said of Cooney. "He's always looking to me to see what I want us to run. He gets us organized."
Dunn said Cooney's play has been one of the keys to the Irish resurgence after last season's injured-marred, 8-19 season.
"We didn't even know who the point guard was going to be," Dunn said. "But Kyle has shown he can handle that role. It's been huge how he's played."
Cooney said he has been a fan of Camden Catholic basketball for most of his life, attending games as a youngster with his father, Bob.
"It's really like a dream come true," Cooney said. "I remember coming to games with my dad when I was in middle school, elementary school and watching this team and hoping that someday I could play for this team."
For most of game, Cooney stuck to his script: He played sticky defense, dished three assists, lifted two steals. He finished with 10 points, converting a pair of layups and a pair of three-pointers.
His three-pointer off a nice feed from Streater (eight points, four assists, three steals) gave the Irish a 42-28 lead with four minutes, 24 seconds to play.
But it was his other three-pointer that sent the Irish racing to their locker room with a 27-19 lead at the break.
That was the turnaround, fadeaway from behind the arc on the left side, a shot Cooney doesn't even try in practice, much less expect to let loose in a big moment in a big game.
"It was terrible," Cooney said. "I just threw it up there. I didn't even think it would hit the rim."
He was right about that: It hit nothing but net.
Camden Catholic 17 10 5 19 - 51
Bishop Eustace 12 7 7 7 - 33
CC: Dominic Dunn 15, Baba Ajike 11, Ian McCarthy 3, Nazir Streater 8, Kyle Cooney 10, Rob McCoy 4.
BE: Alec DiPietrantonio 4, Nate Carpenter 4, Pat Fish 5, Jesse Saul 9, Peyton Vosternak 5, Matt Kempter 6.