Cardinal Gibbons’ point guard Jose Morales and 6-7 sharpshooter Maverick Rowan, a Louisville target, showed District 16-5A arch rival Dillard why they make Gibbons, ranked No. 14 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national poll, the clear-cut favorite to win the Class 5A state title this season.
Rowan, whose transfer from Pennsylvania gave Gibbons a highly coveted closer, had a game-high 28 points, and Morales added 26 points as Gibbons held off a late third-quarter rally and beat the host Panthers 79-73 on Tuesday night.
“After Dillard made their run, we got back to playing how we usually play,” Morales said. “We got our heads together. We were trying to rush things and hit the home run and put them away, and they crept back on us. Everybody is going to give us a fight. We are ranked 14th in the nation. They are going to come at our heads. We have to get used to that.”
When it was money time, however, the Rowan-Morales duo proved to be the difference in a rivalry which had the feel of a playoff game.
Dillard, sparked by star sophomore Jordan Wright who had a coming-out party by tying Rowan with a game-high 28 points, used a 12-4 run at the end of the third quarter to cut the Gibbons lead to 58-52 only to watch Rowan and Morales secure Gibbons’ unblemished record at 20-0.
With Gibbons clinging to a 66-64 lead with 3:08 left Rowan knocked down a wide open three-pointer from the left wing, found Richard McIntosh for a layup, added a steal and then the dagger shot, a turnaround jumper after meticulously walking the ball upcourt which put the Chiefs back in control 73-64 with 1:28 left.
“To me it was just another regular season game,” Rowan said. “To come in here and beat them. It is my first year down here. It’s always good to beat their rival.’’
Morales, who owned his much anticipated point guard battle with Dillard standout Michael Green, added three free throws for a 77-68 lead with 58.4 seconds left and then motioned to the Gibbons crowd chanting “Jose, Jose.”
Jordan Wright and Cedric Wright (18 points) kept the Panthers within striking distance but ultimately Rowan getting loose for too many uncontested shots proved a climb too steep for Dillard to overcome.
CG (20-0): Morales 26, Rowan 28, McIntosh 14, Kacprzak 9, Strong 2.
Dill (15-3): Green 11, J. Wright 28, C. Wright 18, Farrington 8, Coqmard 3, Smith 4, Maloney 1,
Three-pointers: Morales 2, Rowan 4, Kacprzak 2, Green 1, J. Wright 1, Coqmard 1. Rebounds: McIntosh 11, Books 10. Assists: Morales 11. Half: CG 40-28.