With 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the game tied, everyone at Bishop Ford HS Saturday afternoon thought Chris Manhertz was going to get the ball. That includes the Nazareth players, who doubled Cardinal Spellman’s dominant junior forward.
That opened up a seam for Orlando Rodriguez, who exploited it. The senior guard drove through the middle of the lane and scored what proved to be the game-winning bucket on a floater in the Falcons’ 46-42 victory over the Kingsmen in a CHSAA Class A intersectional first-round playoff game.
“I saw they were double-teaming Manhertz so once I saw a little step between the two players I decided to jump through it,” Rodriguez said. “I was thinking of passing it down to the box, but I felt I needed to take it on myself.”
Rodriguez, his team’s lone senior leader after Damir Radzepagic was lost for the season with a torn ACL earlier this year, scored a team-high 13 points to lead Cardinal Spellman (5-19) into the second round where the Falcons will meet Cardinal Hayes on Tuesday at a location to be determined.
“We wanted Orlando to make something happen with the ball and he did,” Cardinal Spellman coach Fred Opper said. “He got into the lane and makes a tough shot like that. It’s nice to see the ball go in once in a while.”
Marquis Lee beat the third quarter buzzer with a jump shot to send Nazareth (11-14) into the fourth quarter with a 35-33 lead. Led by Marvin Lazor, who scored a game-high 16 points, the Kingsmen led 42-38 with 3:07 left in the fourth on a pair of Shaquille Cunningham free throws.
But Manhertz (12 points) scored in the lane and James Pamphile hit a clutch 16-footer from the corner to tie the game at 42 with 2:21 remaining in regulation. The game remained that way until Rodriguez’s critical floater in the lane. Rodriguez also scored the game-tying 3-pointer in a 77-74 triple overtime loss at Nazareth on Feb. 12.
“He’s our captain, he is our leader,” Opper said of Rodriguez. “I feel good when he has the ball because he protects the ball. He just does a great job. He’s our only real senior.”
The game was not without controversy. In the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter, Lee chased after a loose ball as Nazareth coach Todd Jamison attempted to call a timeout. But the officials didn’t acknowledge him and Lee crashed into the Kingsmen bench, resulting in a costly turnover.
Four seconds later, it looked like Cunningham slapped the ball out of Brian Ford’s hands, but the officials whistled a foul and the junior guard buried both free throws to put the game out of reach.
“We had an awful week of practice,” Jamison said. “We only had eight kids, a couple of kids were sick, a couple of injuries. We finally had one decent practice yesterday, but as I told the kid, they deserved to win because they probably prepared better than we did…If you asked me if my three senior guards came to play today, I’d tell you no, they didn’t.”
Lee had just nine points and Daniel Adeyinka added eight for Nazareth, which suffered a difficult end to its season. Spellman, meanwhile, has won two straight games heading into a second-round game against Cardinal Hayes.
The Cardinals won the lone regular-season meeting, 53-46, at Hayes and the Spellman players are anxious at getting revenge.
“I want to go to Hayes and just kill them,” Rodriguez said. “We definitely can play with Hayes.”