Each of fifth-year head coach Marcus Kahn’s seasons at the helm of the Cabrini men’s basketball team have had three things in common.
One, the team has won the season opener. Two, the team has advanced to the CSAC Final – with wins in their last three. Three, the team has won the annual Battle of Eagle Road against Eastern University.
While time will tell if the second trend continues, the latter was completed for the fifth straight season as the Cavs knocked off cross-campus rival Eastern University by a score of 80-66 in the home opener at the Nerney Field House on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
“It was not the way we wanted it to really go start to finish but we hung tough,” Kahn said. “We’ve got a long way to go. There’s a lot of progress to be made and I think we’ll do it.”
The Cavs took some time to find a groove. As the team’s traded baskets, the Cavs found themselves in a five-point hole at one point and trailed 20-19 at the midway point of the first half.
The tightly-contested half looked like it would end in a tie before a late basket for Cabrini on what was thought to be their final possession was made by senior Goran Dulac with six seconds left. But junior Fran Rafferty came up with a steal on the inbound pass and was fouled with two seconds left. He made both free throws to give Cabrini a four-point lead at the break.
“Coming off Saturday’s loss we really wanted to come out here and perform,” Rafferty said. “We knew they could shoot the ball so we had to come out hot as well.”
The Cavs started the second half strong, opening up a seven-point lead less than five minutes in. But quickly, the Eagles went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to one.
The game of runs continued in Cabrini’s favor in the next couple of minutes, as the Cavs answered with a 7-0 run to extend the lead to eight. Cabrini had been victimized by turnovers in their first two games. In their home opener, they created turnovers managing 10 steals and four blocks.
Cabrini’s lead was still at single digits with eight minutes to go. But the Cavs continued their hot shooting second half with a pair of huge plays with just under five minutes left. Freshman Arron Goodman slamed home a two-handed dunk to electrify the crowd. Rafferty followed with three of his team-high 19 points on the second of two three-pointers made in the game. That extended the Cavs’ lead to a game-high 19.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” Goodman said. “The fans really give us hype. It’s a lot of fun playing out there.”
Goodman trailed Rafferty with 17 points and came up just short of his third straight double-double. In addition to his 17 points, Goodman grabbed eight rebounds, second only to Dulac’s 11.
“I’m just doing whatever coach asks me,” Goodman said. “He tells me to go out there, play hard and rebound the ball. Points will come when you play hard.”
Eastern wasn’t going down without a fight. A late rush was led by sophomore Anthony Parenti, who made six three-pointers in the game including three in the final two minutes. He finished with a game-high 29 points.
But in the end, it was Cabrini celebrating their second win of the young season and their fifth straight season retaining the “Eagle Road” street sign.
Next for the Cavaliers is another of the final tuneups before conference play. The Cavs will face Widener University in the Coaches vs. Cancer marathon at Neumann University on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 2:15 p.m.
Prior to the game, the Cavs unveiled the 2011-12 national runner-up banner for their participation in the Final Four. 2012 graduate John Boyd was on hand for the ceremony as the members of the team, both new and old, lined up to watch the ceremony as a team. It was a moment that fired up both the players and coaches.
“I honestly got chills,” Rafferty said. “It was a great run and a great time but I’m looking forward to another one this year.”
“It’s a great feeling to see that up there,” Kahn said. “Last year was very special for us. I hope it’s a motivator for this group. It was a very special night for our guys and then to beat our biggest rival on the same evening, it was a good night.”