By Brandon Mauk
St. Francis Prep stuck with Xaverian all game and took a late lead, but could not earn a signature victory.
The Terriers squandered that chance at the free-throw line and Xaverian left Fresh Meadows with a 51-43 CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball victory on Dec. 17. A potential upset victory was instead St. Francis’ third straight loss.
The Terriers (4-5) took a one-point lead in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter, but was ultimately doomed by turnovers and missed free throws. Xaverian ended the game on a 12-3 run.
“I was just disappointed that when we finally did work hard enough to get a lead, we just didn’t do anything,” St. Francis Coach Tim Leary said. “We’ll get back to work this week.”
His club’s defense was key throughout and helped it jump out to a 7-0 lead in the first 3:30 of the game. They held Xaverian to just six points in the first quarter, as the Clippers struggled in the half court.
St. Francis forced them into taking low-percentage shots and controlled the defensive glass. Peter Panapolous (12 points) and Kyle Beeson (17 points) led St. Francis early with nine and seven points, respectively, in the first half. St. Francis held a three-point lead midway through the second quarter.
“Styles make the fight, and it was not what we wanted, but it turned completely into a half-court game, and they were challenging us to shoot the ball outside,” Xaverian Coach Jack Alesi said.
Xaverian then began to play its style. Turnovers led to fast-break baskets. An 11-1 run put it up by seven with 2:27 left in the half. The Clippers forced St. Francis into committing 13 turnovers before the break.
“That’s a major issue,” Leary said. “That gives them that many more chances at the basket,”
Panapolous and Beeson combined for back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to three, but Brandon Leftwich put Xaverian back up by nine with a layup at the buzzer to end the first half.
Beeson took over the scoring for St. Francis in the second half with 11 points. His first two baskets in the third quarter got the Terriers back within two, but Xaverian pushed its lead back to seven after a 7-0 run led by Nyontay Wisseh.
Panapoulous sparked a Terriers rally and tied the score at 35-35 in the fourth quarter with a three-pointer. Sebastian Etheart put St. Francis up 40-39 with a layup midway through the final frame, but it could not build off it.
Panapoulos missed two crucial free throws one possession later and the game slowly slipped away. Xaverian pressured the St. Francis guards and took the lead back for good with five straight points. St. Francis was unable to stop the Clippers on the fast break.
“We’re very disappointed with a lot of the things we did, and when we finally worked hard enough to get ahead of them, we missed our foul shots,” Leary said. “We had our chance. It’s a tough loss.”