By Five Boro Sports
Don Kent was concerned about his team’s psyche. The Monsignor McClancy boys’ basketball team opened its season with a 30-point loss at home to Iona Prep on Tuesday and in three days was set to host the 27th annual Bro. Arnold Memorial Tournament.
So, at the conclusion of Thursday’s practice, the longtime McClancy coach gave his team some words of wisdom: Go home, go to sleep and clear your mind.
That is exactly what the Crusaders needed to hear. First, they beat Monsignor Farrell and St. Agnes. And on Sunday night, the Crusaders beat Queens foe St. Francis Prep 66-57 to capture its first Bro. Arnold crown since 2004.
“We all took the message to heart,” senior guard Keith Brooks said. “We all realized we started off bad and we didn’t want that to determine our whole season. We wanted to show everybody what we’re all about.”
Brooks scored a game-high 23 points to earn tournament MVP honors.
“He’s a leader. He helps us out offensive[ly], defensively,” Kent said of Brooks. “The kids look to him. He’s a self-motivated kid and he wants to win, he plays to win. He came up big for us.”
McClancy (3-1) fell behind early, trailing 11-6 after the first quarter and 31-29 at the half. But St. Francis Prep (2-1) found itself in foul trouble with starters Roger Harris and Chris Fessler each picking up three fouls in the opening half.
Before the final buzzer sounded, Harris, Fessler and Robert Blazicevic all fouled out. But that’s not what longtime St. Francis Prep Coach Tim Leary was upset about.
“They just played harder than us, particularly on the boards,” he said. “They crashed the boards. I thought we might have weathered the storm if our guards played better. They just murdered us off the boards.”
The tide changed in the third quarter. McClancy took its first lead since early in the first quarter on a layup by Anthony Fletcher. It was part of a critical 17-4 run that saw the Crusaders take a 51-42 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Beating a ‘AA’ team makes a statement when you’re a single ‘A’ team,” said McClancy senior Randall Sanabria, who had 17 points. “To do it basically against a rival in the same town makes it even bigger and I think it’s a springboard for the rest of the season.”
With 2.7 seconds left in the third quarter, Brooks was fouled on a three-point attempt from the top of the key. St. Francis Prep senior Bobby Nacer (10 points) was then called for a technical foul for arguing the call and Brooks sank all five foul shots.
“That definitely shifted the momentum to our side,” Brooks said. “Once we got a big lead, we felt good enough to protect it and we knew we were only eight minutes away from winning everything. We all just played our hearts out.”
Anthoni Brown added 13 points for McClancy, which never trailed the rest of the way. He joined Brandon Rivera and Sanabria on the all-tournament team along with Blazicevic (12 points) and Brandon Whitaker of St. Agnes.
In a week that saw Mount St. Michael crush All Hallows, McClancy proved it could also compete against a ‘AA’ team. But that’s not what Kent is concerned about.
“We have to worry about our league,” he said. “I don’t like analogies and comparisons. We have to find a way to beat the Bishop Fords, Mounts, Stepinacs and Ionas.”
Leary also wasn’t making too much of his team’s first loss of the season. After all, it’s three games into the 2008-09 campaign and the Terriers have already matched their entire win total from last year.
“It’s a learning process for us,” Leary said. “From where we were last year to where we are now, I’m still happy about that. We could have had a better chance tonight, but too many guys just didn’t do their job.”
St. Agnes 58, Cardinal Spellman 46: Senior Brandon Whitaker scored 15 points, senior Anthony Resto added 14 and junior Kerry Weldon had 10 for St. Agnes (3-1) in the third-place game at McClancy Sunday afternoon. Junior forward Chris Manhertz, the 2007 Bro. Arnold Tournament MVP, scored a game-high 18 points and senior forward Damir Radzepagic added nine for Spellman, which fell to 1-3.
St. John’s Prep 62, Monsignor Farrell 45: Sophomore swingman Keith Gardner had 17 points, senior forward Jon Rogowski added 12 and senor guard Terrence Johnson had 11 for St. John’s Prep (3-1) in the fifth-place game. Senior guard Ray Navarro and junior forward Anthony Keane scored 11 points apiece for Monsignor Farrell, which fell to 2-3.
St. Edmund 45, Salesian 44: Junior forward Vinny Marchiano scored a game-high 26 points and senior forward Jamie Thelwell added eight points for St. Edmund (1-3) in the seventh-place game Sunday afternoon at McClancy. Salesian (0-4) was led by senior guard Shadayne Philbert, who had 20 points. Jason Alleyne chipped in with eight for the Eagles.