By Anthony Bosco
Led by the spectacular play of Georgia-bound senior guard Sundiata Gaines, the Archbishop Molloy varsity basketball team held off a stubborn St. Francis Prep squad Sunday to win a very competitive CHSAA league contest, 72-67, at the Fresh Meadows school.
Gaines scored a game-high 34 points, including 19 of his team’s 23 points in the fourth quarter to hold off a Terriers team that simply would not go away. But without star players Andrew Cashin and Bryan Geffen, both of whom fouled out, the Terriers just could not catch the Stanners.
“I told him he’s got to take the game over,” Molloy head coach Jack Curran said of Gaines. “He’s got to be the guy.”
While the strategy worked, Gaines was coming off what he called “the worst game of my career” just two days earlier, when he scored a frighteningly low seven points in his team’s 54-44 loss to the Christ the King Royals.
Gaines rebounded from that poor performance by doing exactly what his coach called on him to do: He took over the game. When it mattered most, Molloy’s star player came through, both defensively and offensively, and grabbed tough rebounds despite being outsized down low.
“I just wanted to come and show how good a player I am and put that behind me,” Gaines said of Friday’s loss. “I just left it all out on the court. I knew my team needed a spark. I was the spark for them.”
But even with Gaines playing at such a high level, the superbly coached Terriers (10-6, 1-5) never stopped trying, closing the deficit — which ballooned to as many as 13 points in the third quarter — to just two, 64-62, inside the final minute.
Both teams started slowly in the first quarter, with Prep leading 3-0 more than three minutes in before Molloy (12-6, 5-2) finally got on the board on a basket by Willis Ketrell. The score was knotted at 12-12 after one.
The two teams exchanged buckets in the early going of the second period before the visiting Stanners went on a 16-4 run to close out the first half. St. Francis was held without a field goal through the final four minutes of the second quarter.
Molloy senior forward Vincent Falzone kept his team in front in the third period, taking over for Gaines, who was held scoreless in the frame. Falzone was able to penetrate in the lane and the Terriers seemed powerless to stop his medium-range jumpers.
“Vinny can make the shot in-between shot,” Curran said. “He’s pretty good at it. He’s not afraid to take it. He made some big baskets in the third quarter. ”
The game nearly spun out of control for St. Francis just more than two minutes into the period when Cashin was whistled for his fourth foul. The senior — who is being courted by Queens College — was then hit with a technical for using foul language for his fifth and final foul.
Prep coach Tim Leary was then hit with a technical foul for arguing with officials. When the smoke cleared, the Stanners hit 5-of-6 free throws and extended their lead from eight to 13.
St. Francis, however, came storming back, outscoring Molloy 18-10 over the remaining 5:54 of the third to trail the Stanners by four, 49-45, heading into the fourth.
Back-to-back baskets by Geffen, who led Prep with 19 points, tied the game at 51 apiece with 6:21 remaining in regulation, but Gaines responded with five quick unanswered points. With St. Francis down five, Geffen picked up his fifth and final foul with 1:58 to go.
Still, the Terriers managed to get within two after Brian Fink hit one-of-two from the line at the 1:07 mark. But two free throws by George Kunkel and an old-fashioned three-point play converted by Gaines sealed the deal.
Ian Rogers scored 14 for St. Francis, while teammates Tim Dougherty and Michael Marin chipped in 12 and 11, respectively. Sophomore point guard Milan Prodanovic added 15 for Molloy, while Falzone scored 13.
Xaverian 72, Christ the King 64. Brian Beckford led the revitalized Royals with 22 points, but CK still fell to Brooklyn’s Xaverian Clippers Sunday. Lavance Field and Saiquon Stone led the winners with 23 and 19 points, respectively. CK dropped to 9-9 overall and 5-5 in league play with the loss.
St. John’s Prep 62, Nazareth 36. Serge Clement scored a team-high 17 points, while Gary Graham added 13 and Bryant Dunston 12 as the Red Storm rolled to an easy win over the Kingsmen Friday night in Astoria.
All Hallows 67, St. Francis Prep 62. The Terriers dropped their fourth league game of the season Friday, falling to All Hallows by five.
Monsignor McClancy 59, Holy Cross 55. The Crusaders picked up their first victory of the CHSAA league season Friday, edging the Holy Cross Knights.
Regis 56, Cathedral Prep 47. The duo of Andrew Sedia and John Tassei scored 12 points apiece, while Nick Naclerio and Robert Quinn added 11 each for undefeated Regis. Cathedral was coming off a 67-46 win over Sacred Heart last week.
Christ the King 54, Archbishop Molloy 44. Chris Martin had 12 points and seven assists, and Akeem Gooding pulled down 10 boards while scoring 10 for the Royals Friday night. Joe DeLuca and Niko Scott added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Holy Cross 74, All Hallows 63. The Knights picked up their third league win thanks to Anthony Clarke’s 26 points. Kevin Ogeltree added 17 for the victors.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.