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  Ashton O’Brien Hits For 27 Markers:   March 14, 2024 Edition  
      Boardman News Sports
      The No. 4 seeded Cardinal Mooney boys’ basketball team is on a mission.
      After topping No. 17 Ashland Mapleton, 82-32 in the Division III, Northeast 2 district semifinals at Salem High School, head coach Carey Palermo’s ‘five’ followed that up with a convincing 84-59 victory over No. 12 South Range last Friday to capture their third district championship in the last four seasons.
      They will now head to the regional semi-finals where they will meet Canton Central Catholic at press time at Canton’s historic Memorial Field House.
      The Crusaders (18-7) are the No. 9 seed in District III, Northeast 2 and have won 10 straight games while the Cards (21-5) enter the game on a seven-game win streak and are 13-1 in their last 14 frays.
      The winner of the Mooney-CCC contest will meet the winner of the Cleveland Lutheran East versus Fairview Park Fairview outing on Saturday at 2 p.m. for the regional title, also at Memorial Field House.
      Lutheran East is the No. 1 seed in Northeast 3 while Fairview Park is the No. 5 seed in Northeast 4.
      Against South Range, which finishes their season 18-7, Ashton O’Brien led four Cardinals in double figures with 27 points while Rocco Turner added 17 points, Jibri Carter 16 and Eddie Nieves 14 markers, the ‘quad squad’ scoring 74 of their team’s 84 points on the night.
      Palermo said winning the district title after a one-year absence was a very special moment for the entire team because of the hard work they put in all season long and a gratifying moment as well for the team’s senior players.
      “It means a lot because it meant the world to the seniors to cut down the nets tonight,” Palermo stated after the game. “This is their third district title in four years and I think our seniors have a pretty good grasp of just how difficult it is to win a district championship, having finished as runners-up a season ago. Seeing them win and then cut down the nets was really a sweet feeling.”
      Against the Raiders, the Cardinals rode seven points from O’Brien and five more points from Turner – Landon Moore hooped 14 of his 21 points in the period – as they opened a 20-17 advantage after the first eight minutes of action.
      Five points each from Carter, Nieves and O’Brien in the second stanza helped CMHS outscore SRHS in the second frame, 17-12 as they opened a 34-32 halftime advantage.
      That was the closest the Raiders would get the rest of the way, however, as Mooney outscored the Raiders after intermission, 50-27 for the 25-point victory.
      Nick Pregibon added four points with Nico Genova, Will Desmond and Kingston Powell rounding out the Cards’ offense with a bucket apiece.
      Luke Rohan scored a team-high 22 points – he had six of his team’s eight triples in the game – for the Raiders.
      O’Brien and Turner each had five triples for the Cards – Nieves added two triples and Carter the other missile from downtown – as Mooney rippled the nets 13 times from beyond the arc.
      Against Ashland Mapleton, who finished their season 16-8, the Cards became just the third team in program history to win 20-games in a season as they eliminated the Mounties, 82-32 in the district semi’s.
      Carter led four Cards in double figures with 16 points, Genova and O’Brien each added 13 points while Nieves chipped in with 11 markers as CMHS improved to 20-5 on the year, their first 20-win campaign since former head coach Nick Bellino led the Cards to a 22-3 overall mark in 1997-98.
      The 20 wins marks just the third time ever in program history that they posted a 20-win campaign, the other coming in 1988-89 when the late Roy Nard guided the Cards to a 23-1 overall mark, the best overall single season in program history.
      The Cards opened a 29-11 lead after the first period, increased their margin to 46-14 at the half and outscored the Mounties in the second half, 36-18 for the 50-point victory, their second largest margin of victory this season.
      Ryan Hickey had a team-high 13 points for AMHS.
      PICTURED:  CARDINAL MOONEY HEAD COACH CAREY PALERMO and his team and fans are all smiles after the Cardinals captured their third district cage crown in the past four years last weekend with an 84-59 victory over the South Range Raiders.
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