BRADENTON -- The Cardinal Mooney boys basketball team captured its third straight district championship with a 53-46 win over Bradenton Christian in the Class 3A-District 10 final at BCS.
"It's the first time in school history we've been able to do this. Definitely a special feeling," Cougars head coach Stefan Gates said.
Cardinal Mooney (17-7) overcame 18 turnovers to pull out the victory.
"We played careless with the basketball. Some of it had to do with nerves, but we have to protect the ball," Gates said.
Ryan McMahon led Cardinal Mooney with 17 points, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first quarter.
The Panthers (13-9) outscored the Cougars 14-9 in the third quarter, taking a 40-38 lead into the final period.
Ryan Leunk finished with 15 points for Bradenton Christian, scoring 10 in the first half.
However, on this night the three points that didn't count may have made the biggest impact.
With 7 minutes, 48 seconds left. the Panthers connected on a three that would have given them a 45-38 lead, but coach Scott Townsend had called a timeout.
"It was a momentum swing for us; we caught a break and our guys capitalized," coach Gates said.
Following the timeout, Jake Lister, who finished with 13 points, was called for an offensive foul.
The turnover led to a 3-pointer from Mooney's McMahon, bringing the deficit to one at 42-41.
From that point on, the Cougars outscored the Panthers 15-4 to close out the game.
Bradenton Christian forced a bad pass with 40 seconds left, giving eighth-grader Damien Gordon a shot to tie the game at 46, but it fell short.
"I'm proud of our guys; they played hard. We just aren't able to hit shots down the stretch, and they were," Townsend said.
Blair Perry scored 13 for Cardinal Mooney and hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to close out the game.
"I just did what coach told me, focus and follow through," Perry said.
Both teams will have an opportunity to compete in region play that starts next week.