By Marc Raimondi
Six-foot-seven freshman Ashton Pankey showed poise in the paint and seems to have a bright three years ahead of him. Still, Molloy just won't be the same without Rocco Rubino.The senior, playing in his final home game, scored 22 points to lead the Stanners to a 59-40 win over Holy Cross in a CHSAA 'AA' game. Pankey scored 9 points, showing a variety of post moves, but it was actually Molloy's defense that took a starring role.The Stanners shut out the Knights in the fourth quarter with a creative 3-2 match-up zone that frustrated and confused Holy Cross. It was the same defense Molloy used to contain St. Francis Prep star and No. 2 scorer in the league, Mike Cavataio. It worked just as well against the CHSAA's top scorer, Holy Cross's Sylven Landesberg, Friday night.The junior, who averages close to 30 per game, was held to 14 points – 10 of them on free throws. Molloy (12-12, 5-7 CHSAA 'AA') seemed to be somewhat secretive about the intricacies of the zone – it never was quite the same each time Holy Cross (15-6, 6-5) had the ball. Sometimes the Stanners sagged back, sometimes they ran at the ball; they even trapped at times.”I'm not gonna divulge the defense,” Rubino added with a laugh. “We just wanted to play as hard as we could and the defense won the game.”When a penetrator got by the initial line of bodies in the zone, Pankey and his long arms were there to alter shots. Curran has brought him along slowly, but after the big man scored 18 points in one half at Holy Cross, he begged the 49th-year coach to give him a shot against the Knights this time around. Curran didn't start Pankey – he didn't start Kenny Anderson as a freshman, either – but Pankey is the first freshman at Molloy since the former Georgia Tech and NBA star to get this many minutes as a first-year player.”He's young, he's 14 (years old),” Curran said. “We're working him in slowly.”On the other end of the spectrum is Rubino, a veteran and sure Division I player next year. As he goes, scoring on a steady diet of fearless drives and long three-pointers, so does Molloy. Rubino owes most of that to the raucous crowd the school has been getting and the team has fed off the constant noise.”The crowd was pumped, got us all pumped,” he said. “And they came in our house. We couldn't let them beat us in our house, especially when our whole student body was there.”Molloy was down 14-7 after the first quarter and looked stagnant. But Curran swears it was nothing he said before the second started that got the Stanners going.”I couldn't tell them much, because it was so noisy,” the coach said. “Whatever I said, they didn't hear it, I'm sure.”St. Francis Prep 64, Xaverian 58. On a night in which the Terriers retired the number of former player Michael Lynch, a firefighter who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Prep came out victorious Friday over Xaverian in a CHSAA 'AA' game.Senior forward Mike Cavataio, the league's second leading scorer, had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but St. Francis (15-6, 6-5 CHSAA 'AA') was led by senior Keith Nandin. The diminutive point guard had 20 points, 6 assists and a pair of steals in the victory. Jason Philippe added 12 points and 7 rebounds.For the Clippers (14-9, 5-7), Vincent Council led the team with 17 points and Vincent Jackson tipped in 8.