Brady, Eagles Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

By Stephen Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Another comeback. Another Brady.
Not the same stakes or the same size stage as that other comeback all New England is talking about, but for the Mount Everett boys basketball team, Friday’s nine-point second-half comeback at St. Joseph was pretty significant.
Cavan Brady scored 23 points and made two big steals down the stretch to secure a 51-48 win over the Crusaders that snapped a two-game losing streak and kept the Eagles’ post-season hopes alive.
“Cavan is having another great year,” Mount Everett coach Jowe Warren said. “He's definitely the leader on the team. He keeps his composure out there, always even keeled. His emotions won't get the best of him.
“He makes a lot of good decisions out there, so we can trust him, especially down the stretch, to hit the free throws, trust his decisions with the ball. And he gives us everything he's got on defense.”
That defense came in handy at the end of a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
With just more than a minute left, Brady made a steal and immediately drew a foul with Mount Everett trailing by one. He drained both ends of a one-and-one to give the Eagles (9-10) a 49-48 lead.
After both teams traded misses and Kekoa McAardle (15 points, 20 rebounds grabbed a defensive board with 25 seconds left, Brady tipped a pass from a St. Joe player driving the lane. Patrick Silk grabbed it and kicked to Cassius Conaway on the wing.
Conaway was fouled and converted both ends of his one-and-one with 12.7 seconds left to provide the final margin of victory.
“He's smart on defense, stays on the ground, hands up, active,” Warren said of Brady. “That's why he's out there as much as he is.”
Dan Litchfield scored seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Jimi Gulotta hit two 3-pointers for Mount Everett.
McArdle and Jalen Duck each had a double-double for St. Joe. Duck scored 13 and grabbed 11 boards.
McArdle scored on back-to-back trips midway through the third quarter to give St. Joseph (5-12) its biggest lead of the game, 36-27.
But Brady drew a two-shot foul and made both before Litchfield scored five -- a steal and a lay-in and a 3-pointer -- to help Mount Everett get within four, 38-34, going to the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth, Jack Carpenter set up Brady for a corner 3-ball to tie the game, 41-41, setting up a wild final five minutes.
McArdle scored in the post to retake the lead, but Mount Everett answered with a Gulotta triple and a Carpenter foul shot to go ahead, 45-43, with 4:01 on the clock.
St. Joe then went on a 5-0 run to go ahead, 48-45, when McArdle was fouled attempting to put back an offensive rebound and converted one of two from the line with 2:36 left.
McArdle then got the ball back at the other end with a rebound, but the Crusaders turned the ball over, setting up Conaway bucket in transition that got the Eagles within a point, 48-47, with 1:55 left.
The Crusaders ended up turning over the ball four times in the last two minutes.
“I'm not really sure they did anything differently defensively,” St. Joseph coach Joe Bennett said. “Our kids were having trouble with turnovers the whole year. And I think we just got into a situation where it was Senior Night, big game, coming down to the wire, and we started getting unforced turnovers.
“Mount Everett did play decent defense. I'm not trying to take all the credit away from them. I just thought we needed to do a little better job protecting the ball.”
Bennett was particularly disappointed to see his team come up short on Senior Night, when it recognized captain Mike Gingras.
“This is definitely one where we wanted to get a win for my sole senior,” Bennett said. “He has been here all four years. He really understands St. Joe, beyond basketball but definitely on a basketball court. I really wanted to get him a victory for that last game.”
Although St. Joe does have another home game next week, a Senior Night win could have been a nice touch for all the Crusaders who stuck it out as the program plays its final season at the school, which is slated for closure at the end of the academic year.
“Kids could have definitely left,” Bennett said. “They could have quit. They could have done a lot of things, I suppose. But everyone stayed with the same mindset: This is the last year, and we want to go out with a bang.
“It's not going down ideally, but we're getting better each game. If we can pull together more consistent games as far as half to half, this will be a pretty good team, a pretty scary team.”
The Crusaders travel to Lee on Monday.
Mount Everett is off until Feb. 20 when it travels to Monson with a Western Mass tournament berth on the line. Going into Friday with two games left and sitting two games under .500, the Eagles came to the Boys & Girls Club in playoff mode already.
“The boys knew if we lost tonight we can't make it to the tournament, so we needed this one,” Warren said. “We were down the majority of the game, fought back in the fourth quarter, tied it up, got a little bit of a lead and it went back and forth. We managed to stick it out for the win. It was huge for the boys.”
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