MUNSTER | Pat McCarthy, like his teammates, knows that game day is about preparing for the game, not waiting for the game.
So in his study hall the Munster senior gets his homework done and then focuses on what he might do in the coming night’s game.
“You just go through the game mentally and visualize yourself making positive plays,” McCarthy said. “You envision yourself making the same shots so when you get your number called you have the confidence to knock them down.”
McCarthy made two of the biggest field goals of the fourth quarter, Griffith’s impressive rallies not withstanding, and his go-ahead 3-pointer was a difference-maker as the Times No. 3 Mustangs held off the visiting No. 5 Panthers 59-55 Friday night in Munster’s fieldhouse.
McCarthy’s 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter broke a 43-43 tie, and his jumper off a backdoor pass put Munster up 50-46 in a fourth quarter during which Munster went into a delay and needed every possession to end with points as Griffith refused to fade.
“I heard coach say from the sidelines to knock (the 3-pointer) down, and I just stepped into it and shot it with confidence and trusted my skills,” McCarthy said. “We practiced that (backdoor) play a lot this week, and Kevin (Schlotman) made a great pass.”
Griffith (11-3, 4-1) led 43-42 on the first basket of the fourth. Flint Powell, who had a game-high 19 points, hit that layup and drained two more 3-pointers and a layup, the latter with 10 seconds to go. However, most of those shots came with Munster up by at least two possessions.
Munster (13-3, 5-0) was 8-of-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, 20-for-25 for the game. Drew Hackett was 8-for-8 on free throws in the game, four of those coming in the fourth quarter. Hackett led Munster with 15 points while McCarthy had 12.
“We needed a close competitive game, so this was good for us,” Munster coach Mike Hackett said. “You don’t want to play in 20-point blowouts all the time.”
Munster improved to 41-0 all-time in Northwest Crossroads Conference play and clinched at least a share of the season title because the Mustangs held on late after leading by 13 at numerous points in the first quarter.
“We got off to a fast start, but the kids relaxed, and I think we lost our mojo, so to speak, and Griffith started getting the momentum and making plays,” Hackett said. “When you have all the momentum and lose it, it’s hard to take it back. I’m also proud the kids didn’t panic when Griffith took the lead.”
The Panthers outscored Munster 34-22 in the middle two quarters. Anthony Murphy returned from a tweaked right knee in the first quarter and had 11 points, seven coming in the second quarter. His steal and layup gave Griffith its first lead, 41-40.
Griffith coach Gary Hayes was upset about two late plays when his team was a shot away from ending Munster’s prolific streak. Two Griffith players collided with a Munster player and were called for a foul while attempting a surefire breakaway steal, and after Powell’s final hoop, the ball went by the bleachers as precious seconds ticked off the clock.
"That 17-4 gap was hard to overcome," Hayes said. "Even though we were ready to play, we got out here in this atmosphere and it took us a little while to get where we needed to be. Our kids believed they were going to win, they were very confident. Munster is very good. We just have to play a little better to beat them on their home floor."