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St. Joe's races to championship

Watching film on Mount St. Michael told St. Joe's a lot more than who their best players were.

"We saw we could run on them," said guard Naaman Roosevelt. "That's what Coach stressed all week in practice, get the ball, get it out, and throw it to the open guy for layups."

The Marauders had their running game in high gear Saturday as they beat the Mount up and down the floor and on the scoreboard, 70-59, to win the Class A Catholic State title. The game was played before an estimated 2,000 at Niagara University's Gallagher Center.

St. Joe's (27-1) advanced to Friday's Federation championship at Glens Falls (6:45 p.m.) against the the winner of today's public school championship game between Sweet Home and Peekskill of Section I.

The Catholic State title is the fifth in St. Joe's history and its first since beating LaSalle in 2004. St. Joe's other titles came in 1991, 1992 and 1993. It was St. Joe's 10th appearance in the final since the tournament began in 1980.

Joe's came into the game ranked No. 2 in the New York State Sportswriters poll while the Mount was No. 3. But the teams didn't look that evenly matched in what was an entertaining first half thanks to a St. Joe's clinic on how to run the fast break.

The visitors from the Bronx thought they could press St. Joe's, but guards Roosevelt and Domonic Cook proved otherwise.

"We love the pressure because we just go right by them," said Cook. "We're so in shape, nobody can keep up with us."

There was no keeping up with Cook. He scored 22 points, had six assists and was 10 of 12 from the foul line.

"In my opinion, he's the best point guard in Western New York," said St. Joe's coach Mark Simon. "We do not win without him. He proved that today. He was just fantastic."

Roosevelt added 19 points, eight rebounds and had four blocked shots. And neither Roosevelt or Cook had an reservations about driving despite the presence of the Mount's 6-foot-8 center Alejo Rodriguez, who has signed with Iona.

Rodriguez got his points (22, which included two monster dunks), and he did send a blocked shot into the scorer's table at halfcourt, but he did little to slow St. Joe's transition game.

St. Joe's never trailed. The Marauders jumped to a 10-2 lead, and the Mount had to call timeouts early to regroup. The lead was 17-10 after the first quarter and 37-21 at the half. The frustration the Mount was feeling became obvious when coach Tom Fraher picked up a technical foul with 1:01 left in the half.

St. Joe's enjoyed its largest lead, 49-28, in the third quarter. But just like Canisius in the second half of the Manhattan Cup final, the Mount made a run.

The Bronx team cut the lead to eight, 59-51, with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter. But St. Joe's made 8 of 10 free-throw attempts the rest of the way to put the final touches on its 26th win in a row. John Greer added 10 points.

The Mount tried to get back in the game with three-pointers, but finished the game making 7 of 24.

"We've had a ton of good first halves and some interesting second halves," said Simon. "They made a couple shots that they didn't do in the first half. In a zone you're going to give them some areas.

"And I think maybe early in the third quarter we were a little tentative, which has been a problem for us. It's hard to play with a big lead. You're up 18, 16. . . . We said at halftime, just go out and make the plays that got you there in the first half."

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com

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