SARASOTA -- The Cardinal Mooney boys basketball team might agree that it's better to be lucky than good after escaping with a 64-62 overtime victory over visiting St. Petersburg Shorecrest on Thursday night in its Class 3A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
The Cougars could also argue you create your own luck, which they were able to do despite facing a 12-point deficit with a minute left in the third quarter.
Trailing 46-34 with 1 minute, 10 seconds left in the third period, the Cougars scored 14 unanswered points with Ryan McMahon supplying 13 in converting nine straight free throw attempts and getting two baskets.
Good teams win on nights when they are not playing well, and Mooney (24-3) can take that into its region semifinal Tuesday night at home against Clearwater Calvary Christian.
"We didn't have the type of focus and energy that we needed and were a little stagnant with the ball. We tried to do a little bit too
much one on one," Mooney head coach Stefan Gates said. "We kind of got away from what we do well, and that's play together and move the ball and get others involved."
Cardinal Mooney looked out of sync on defense, often allowing Shorecrest to shoot uncontested 3-pointers, including two in the last two minutes of regulation that enabled the Chargers to take a 54-53 lead with 1:05 remaining.
Cardinal Mooney could've won the game in regulation. McMahon responded with two free throws for what seemed like a 55-54 lead, but the second one was nullified when Tommy Rao was called for a lane violation and the game went into overtime.
McMahon buried a trey and then sank two free throws to give Mooney a 60-58 lead.
Justin Najmy converted two free throws to push Cardinal Mooney's lead to 63-60 with 32.9 seconds left. Shorecrest answered with a layup by Marcus Blake to cut its deficit to 63-62 with 8.8 seconds left.
McMahon went to the line with 4.8 seconds. He made his 13th straight free throw of the game. He missed the second shot and got the rebound, but an official ruled he left the free-throw line too soon. Shorecrest (19-8) had to go the length of the court in 4.8 seconds and failed to get off a shot.
Mooney had its worst shooting night of the season connecting on 18 of 46 field-goal attempts and was 3-of-13 from beyond the arc. Shorecrest launched 21 three-point attempts in the first half connecting on eight. The Chargers finished the night 11-33 on treys and 23-59 overall.
"We didn't have our best offensive game and turned it over a bit and took some tough shots and gave up some easy points that we don't normally give up," Gates said. "But we showed even when we don't have our best stuff we can find a way to win,"
Mitch Arimura struggled at the free-throw line, but gave the Cougars a presence inside the paint with 14 points, getting 10 of those in the first half to keep Cardinal Mooney within 30-28 at halftime. He finished with seven rebounds.
McMahon finished with 32 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field (2-of-4 on treys) with a team-high nine rebounds and three assists. Najmy had nine points, five rebounds and three assists. The Cougars were 25-of-34 from the line. Shorecrest, which did most its shooting from the perimeter, was 5-of-7 from the charity stripe.
"We just play as a team and we are growing as a family, and we started playing team defense and defense won us the game tonight," Arimura said.