By DYLAN BUTLER
St. Francis Prep is enjoying a boys’ basketball resurgence this year, a fact not lost on legendary Archbishop Molloy Coach Jack Curran.
“They were terrific,” Curran said Friday night. “They move so well without the ball, they play together. [Coach] Tim [Leary] just does a great job. Those kids came from nowhere after last year.”
It’s well-deserved praise, but the Terriers still left Briarwood with an empty feeling after a 76-71 double-overtime loss to their rivals in a CHSAA Class AA Brooklyn/Queens thriller.
St. Francis Prep, which already has as many league wins this year — three — as the previous three years combined, could have made it three league wins in a row, but they squandered an 11-point third-quarter lead.
“This was one we definitely let get away,” senior swingman Glyne Straker said. “We had them on the ropes in the fourth quarter. We had the win, but we had some relapses, free throws, of course, defensive adjustments. We’re going to get them back at St. Francis, though.”
Straker bounced back from some first-half struggles to score 18 points, grab 13 rebounds and dish out four assists, but the senior swingman missed a pair of pivotal free throws with St. Francis Prep (11-6, 3-4 Brooklyn/Queens) leading 71-69 and just 2:09 left in the second overtime.
“I tried to get back into the game,” Straker said. “I felt like I was fading in the first half, but I was trying to attack the boards the most. That was the main goal.”
Andrew Winter had a team-high 23 points and 13 rebounds, including a pair of huge defensive boards in the final 1:24 of regulation. And when George Hatzioannides (12 points, six assists) drained two clutch free throws with 19.2 seconds left in the fourth, the Terriers were up 60-57 and were one stop away from another huge road win.
But Chris Dorgler, who scored 17 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, whipped the standing-room-only crowd into a frenzy five seconds later with his deep, straight-away three-pointer to force overtime.
“It was at least 5 to 8 feet past the top of the key,” Leary said. “We were on him. It was an amazing shot. If he misses that, we win the game.”
St. Francis Prep trailed 68-64 with 1:38 left in the first overtime, but Winter got to the basket for two points and, after George Davis went 1-of-2 from the line, seldom-used junior James Chavis nailed a tying three-pointer with 29 seconds left.
Another Winter layup gave the Terriers a 71-69 lead with 3:14 left in the second overtime, but the junior forward was called for a pair of charges less than a minute apart. In between, Mark Parisi buried a huge three-pointer to give Molloy (11-5, 2-3) a 72-71 lead with 1:15 remaining.
St. Francis Prep couldn’t close out the Stanners when it had the chance and it proved costly late.
“We had a stretch where we built an eight-point lead and then we fire three bombs,” Leary said. “We just don’t seem to make the right plays. We throw the ball away, miss a foul shot. It was a good effort on Molloy’s court.”
Leary, in particular, was critical of Joe Salerno, who came up huge in a 67-51 win at Holy Cross two weeks ago.
“I thought one of the key factors in the game was that we didn’t get a game from Salerno,” he said. “I don’t know what the problem is, but we didn’t get a game out of him.”
Still, as disappointing as a double-overtime loss at Molloy is, St. Francis Prep is very much alive, and relevant again, in a wacky CHSAA Class AA this season.
“If we can hold it together, we’ve got a chance to win a few games and make some noise,” Leary said. “The way the playoffs are, you just need to be moving in the right direction.”