STEUBENVILLE - An early season basketball game didn't quite have the fuel and fire of a mid-November football game.
Still, Tuesday's match up of Steubenville and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney was about as dramatic as one of their signature playoff games.
"The guys who play (football) and even the guys who don't play know the meaning of the game," said Big Red coach Mike Haney. "It's fun to get after them and play someone like that, especially with the history of these two schools."
Like the lopsided overall series on the gridiron, the Cardinals got the best of Big Red with a dominant stretch run led by Mooney sophomore Andrew Armstrong.
Armstrong scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Cardinals over Steubenville, 69-61.
"We knew we were in for a tough game," Mooney coach Brian Danilov said. "Mike does a great job over there and it's a joy to be able to play someone of that caliber. Steubenville is always a good test.
"We were fortunate that the ball bounced our way and we got some rebounds."
The Cardinals (1-1) held a 46-30 rebounding advantage, led by 15 from Armstrong. Mark Handel, the football team's star running back grabbed six and Ross Lanzo brought down six off the bench. Adam Sterling had nine rebounds for Big Red (2-1) and freshman Charles Reeves grabbed seven.
"It seemed like we weren't boxing out," Haney said. "We didn't get enough on them, or, we're boxing out and not attacking the ball. A guy goes up to block a shot and other players need to get a body on someone. They out-rebounded us pretty well."
Mooney led 7-0 to start the game and had an eight-point advantage after the first quarter. In the second quarter, Steubenville went on a 9-0 run and didn't allow a Cardinals' field goal until the 3:19 mark.
On a Lucas Herrington 3-pointer, Big Red took its first lead, 26-25, at the 1:01 mark.
"It was a lot of stuff," Danilov said of his team's second quarter struggles. "Some poor decisions, them not being ready to play. It was more so Steubenville's hard defense."
"It was just defense," he said. "We talked about them wanting to shoot a lot of threes and getting it down to the bucket. We did a good job of containing them in the second.
"After that, they went to the bucket and beat us. You can't win a game when you don't play well defensively."
After allowing just five points in the second quarter, Mooney scored 21 in the third and 23 in the fourth.
Steubenville took its biggest lead, 37-29, on a Sterling and-one conversion at the 5:20 mark of the third quarter. Mooney regained the lead early in the fourth after an 8-2 run.
Down three with under 5 minutes left, Sterling had an open lane to the basket and got caught on the rim missing a dunk attempt which went out of bounds and gave the ball to Mooney.
"He could lay it in for two, but if he dunks it, it changes the whole momentum," Haney said. "I told him in there, 'Hey you dunk it in practice, I don't have a problem with it.' It changes the momentum. Dunks always do that, especially in high school."
The Cardinals dominated in the paint after that missed opportunity as Lanzo scored six of his eight points and Armstrong worked inside.
"He's a big body," Danilov said of the 6-foot-2 Armstrong. "He's one of those kids who has a high-motor. He listens, he's unselfish and he has a real desire to get better."
Herrington led Steubenville with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Reeves scored eight points with six blocks, Sterling added six points and Brandon Herring-Hill, who is nursing a sore elbow, had 13.