By Joseph Staszewski
The basketball players decided what defense to play in the second half against St. Francis Prep an easy one for Archbishop Molloy Coach Mike McCleary. It also was the right one.
The Stanners planned on switching between man-to-man and zone, but they allowed a backdoor layup to the Terriers’ Brian Haggerty on the opening possession of the third quarter. McCleary called time out.
“I figured it was better to go to the zone at that point,” he said.
The switch led to a huge third quarter that propelled Molloy to an eventual 76-67 home win over visiting St. Francis Prep in CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball last Friday night. Molloy kept the Terriers out of the paint and turned a huge rebounding advantage into transition points. St. Francis Prep’s nine-point lead quickly turned to a 53-43 Stanners’ advantage with 55 seconds left in the third quarter thanks to a 13-0 run.
“We just had to play better defense,” Molloy sophomore Aaron Walker said. “We were losing our man, so we went to the zone and we just went with it for the rest of the quarter. It worked.”
Walker scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half. Columbia-bound point guard C.J. Davis had 16 of his 20 points after the break and added nine points, nine assists and five steals. He tallied nine points during the game-changing run. Jason Cethoute added 14 points.
“Every time we needed a play made, he makes it,” McCleary said of Davis. “He’s playing like our best player.”
St. Francis Prep, which led 32-27 at the half, thought it wasn’t aggressive enough against the zone. The team moved the ball, but didn’t really start attacking the seams in the defense until the fourth quarter.
“We were just swinging the ball around,” SFP forward Jordan Santiago said. “Nothing was happening.”
Added Davis: “I felt like they were thinking a lot. When you got somebody thinking a lot, they are iffy on taking a shot or making a move.”
It was Santiago, who scored 23 points, and finally came alive in the final frame. Shane Herrity added 19 points and Michael Field chipped in 10.
The Terriers (12-5, 7-4) pulled within 64-59 on a Santiago layup with 3:23 remaining in the game, but Gabe Kilpatrick answered with a three-pointer. SFP Coach Tim Leary thinks his team, which plays just six players regularly, may be hitting a wall physically after a fast start to the season. The Stanners (10-3, 6-2) had their way on the glass.
“We just need to be physically tougher,” Leary said. “You saw what happened. They beat us up off the boards.”
The victory was a big one for Molloy, which is coming off consecutive losses to Christ the King and Bishop Loughlin. It remains a game back of those teams for first place with the win. The Stanners’ veterans are continuing to mess with their talented young players, like Walker, Isaac Grant and D’Ante Warren. The Stanners think their young players will only help them get better as the year progresses
“They help us a lot,” Walker said of the veterans. “At the end of the season we can be good.”