By Trey Rodriguez
Archbishop Molloy has made a season of closing out wins in the final minutes, sometimes with the last possession of the game, but the Stanners picked a bad time for that trend to cease.
Molloy went on a run with less than two minutes left in the second quarter, giving it a lead it held until the final seconds, when Xaverian managed to steal a 57-55 victory in the CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball Intersectional semifinals at Carnesecca Arena March 9.
“We needed to get back on defense and stop them from scoring on the fast break so that we could get back into the game.” sophomore Khalid Moore said. “We should have started playing better defense from the beginning and not allow them to pick up a lead with their fast break scoring.”
Though the game was close throughout—with Molloy’s biggest lead being just six points—the sense was that the Stanners, who won their first three meetings with the Clippers, would find a way to hold on and win. And while sophomore Moses Brown got into foul trouble, limiting Molloy’s ability to use their size advantage, and freshman Anthony Cole was scoreless in the first half, Molloy weathered the storm through most of the game, thanks to senior Issac Grant’s 17 points and Moore’s 14.
“I knew that somebody had to step up so we could pick ourselves up and get back into the game,” Moore said.
But after everything had gone so right, in the final two minutes of the game they went wrong.
Xaverian junior Zack Bruno scored to cut Molloy’s lead to just 53-52 with 1:36 left in the game. Bruno’s layup would be the start of a 7-2 run to close out the contest for the Clippers.
Molloy’s last lead was 55-53 with 13 seconds left, before Nyontay Wisseh made his way to the free-throw line. Wisseh’s free throw rimmed out, but it would count after Brown made contact with the ball while it was still on the rim The mental error gave Wisseh his second free throw of the one-and-one, which would go in to make the score 55-55.
On the ensuing in-bounds play, Anthony got trapped neat the Xaverian bench and his cross-court pass was stolen by Wisseh, who was fouled. He made both free throws to put the Clippers up 57-55.
Molloy coach Mike McCleary said he tried to call a timeout, but was not seen or heard by the referees.
“That was a panic play. I was calling a timeout when Cole Anthony was trapped in the corner and the official didn’t see it,” McCleary said. “They’re good. They’re athletic. They made a good play.”
On Molloy’s final possession, Xaverian doubled Anthony to get the ball out of his hands. Brown then attempted a three-point shot from the right corner, but it hit off the side of the backboard, ending Molloy’s quest to win its first city title since 1987.
Wisseh’s athleticism caused problems for Molloy all night. He blocked shots and crashed the glass to set a dominating defensive tone in the first half, and then his scoring helped secure the win in the second half. Wisseh finished with 16 points, all coming after the break.
“I think that we struggled,” McCleary said. “[Xaverian] got as many offensive rebounds as they needed in the fourth quarter. We didn’t get enough.”