By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – All-American Pat Maloney ascended to heights no one else in Capital Athletic Conference men’s basketball history has when he was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2001 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship. He heads the list of four former Catholic University basketball players selected to the CAC’s Silver Anniversary Team (1990-2015).
It was Maloney’s NBA-range 3-pointer from right in front of the Cardinal bench with less than two minutes to play that virtually guaranteed CUA (28-5) would win the 2001 National Championship. The senior finished with 16 points and a team-high five rebounds in the Cards’ 76-62 victory over William Paterson at the Salem (Va.) Civic Center.
CUA will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the national title this season.
Maloney is joined on the 25th-anniversary team by Chris Conefry and two of his title-winning teammates, Will Morley and Matt Hilleary.
The Cardinals were charter members of the CAC when the league formed with six schools in 1989. The conference began championship competition with winter sports in 1990-91. CUA remained in the league until the conclusion of the 2006-07 season.
The Cards have won the most CAC tournament championships (7) and regular-season crowns (10) in league history. CUA captured seven straight CAC regular-season titles between 1997 and 2004 – including two ties – and posted a league mark of 88-10 (.898). The streak included the only undefeated season in CAC history (14-0 in 1997-98), a record 22 consecutive conference victories and three 13-1 seasons. The Cardinals played in the CAC championship game for eight straight years between 2000 and 2007.
Maloney, a 6-foot-2 point guard from Brant Beach, N.J., had 29 points and seven assists in the Cardinals’ 82-77 victory over No. 1 Ohio Northern in the 2001 national semifinals. He hit 6 of 12 field goals and went 14 of 14 from the line. The four-year starter averaged a team-high 15.6 points per game that season. Here are more superlatives from his brilliant career:
* 2001 second-team All-American (D3hoops.com)
* Eighth-leading scorer in school history (1,648 points)
* NABC first-team (2001) & second-team (2000) All-District (Middle Atlantic Region)
* 2001 second-team All-ECAC
* 1997-98 All-Freshman Team (DIII News)
* Nation’s leading 3-point shooter (51.8%) in 1997-98 & CAC Rookie of the Year
* Two-time first-team All-CAC (1999-2000, 2000-01) & second-team All-CAC in 1998-99
“Pat was a clutch performer for us all four years,” his coach Mike Lonergan said. “I will never forget the 3-pointer he hit from 30 feet away in the national championship game to put the game out of reach. It was amazing. I worked harder to recruit Pat that any player in my 27 years of coaching. He had a wonderful mother, and I knew Pat would take our program to the next level.
“We won the national championship on St. Patrick’s Day with a point guard named Patrick Maloney. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Sophomore Matt Hilleary joined Maloney on the 2001 Final Four All-Tournament team after producing 15 points and 12 rebounds in the semifinals, and 12 points and three blocks in the championship game. Two of his rejections came in the final 5:15 of the title contest. He averaged 12.5 points that year and led the team in rebounding (6.7 rpg) and field-goal percentage (.534). His 2.4 blocks per game paced the CAC.
Hilleary, a 6-6 post from Manassas, Va., was a two-time NABC second-team All-American (2002, 2003). Upon conclusion of his CUA career in 2003, he played professionally in Ireland and Italy. Here are some more of his accomplishments:
* Two-time CAC Player of the Year (2001-02, 2002-03)
* 2003 fourth-team All-American (D3hoops.com)
* 2003 NABC first-team All-District (Middle Atlantic Region)
* Ninth-leading scorer in Cardinal history (1,622 points)
* Second-leading shot blocker in school history (273 blocks)
“Matt was a Division I talent who could play inside and out,” Lonergan said. “He had a nice jump shot from 15 feet and could also rebound and block shots. Matt was probably the best all-around player I coached at Catholic University.”
Morley, a 6-4 power forward from Olney, Md., was the first CUA basketball player named first-team All-American (2004, DIII News). He was just a freshman when he hit the game-winning shot as time expired to lift the Cardinals to the 2001 CAC Tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
Morley scored 10 points and collected a game-high eight rebounds in the CAC title game. For the year he averaged 10.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. He made 50.4 percent of his field goals, led the CAC in free-throw shooting (84.1 percent) and was named conference Rookie of the Year.
As a senior in 2003-04, Morley paced CUA in scoring (18.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) and was recognized as CAC Player of the Year. Additional honors include:
* 2004 first-team All-Middle Atlantic Region (D3hoops.com, NABC)
* Seventh-leading scorer in school history (1,727 points)
* First-team All-CAC (2002-03)
“Will was one of the toughest kids I ever coached, at any level,” Lonergan said. “He had a fabulous freshman season and was the perfect complement to our senior-oriented team that won the national championship. If he had missed the game-winning shot in the CAC title game, we probably wouldn’t have made the NCAAs because of the politics of the at-large selection process in those days.”
Conefry averaged 18.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in 1992-93 and was named CAC Player of the Year. The senior helped the Cards become the league’s first team to advance to the NCAA Tournament. CUA, in Lonergan’s first year as coach, finished 21-6 and won the CAC regular-season and tournament championships. At that point, it was the most wins in program history. The title-game victory came over 19th-ranked York.
A 6-4 swingman from Hopewell, N.J., Conefry was a first-team All-CAC selection his first year under Bob Valvano. The Cardinals (20-6) won 13 in a row before falling to Marymount in the 1992 CAC championship game. Conefry scored 25 points in an earlier 91-80 win over the Saints. The Cardinals captured the CUA-hosted Eastern Invitational Tournament and repeated the next year in the newly renamed CUA Coca-Cola Classic.
In just two seasons in Brookland, Conefry scored 1,035 points.
“Chris Conefry was a great scorer,” Lonergan said. “He could create his own offense and was a matchup problem for opposing teams. He was the most confident player I ever coached.”
Chris McManes was Catholic University’s sports information director from 1998-2001.