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Speedy Lions race past Molloy in diocesan final

By Trey Rodriguez

Issac Grant carried the team on his back, with freshman guard Cole Anthony feeling under the weather—but his effort wasn’t enough to earn Archbishop Molloy its first diocesan boys’ basketball crown since 2002.

“His effort was superior today,” said Molloy coach Mike McCleary. “He was everywhere. It seemed like every time there was a ball up in the air for grabs, he was in the mix to get it, and got it more than not.”

After beating Bishop Loughlin twice during the regular season, Molloy couldn’t replicate the feat in a 79-67 loss in the Brooklyn/Queens championship game on Feb. 26 at St. Francis Prep.

An electric one-handed dunk by Anthony with 35 seconds left in the first quarter gave Molloy a 17-16 lead. It was their last of the game. It was all Bishop Loughlin after that.

“I thought they played great tonight,” McCleary said of the Lions. “Loughlin was very good and [Markquis] Nowell controlled the pace of the game.”

Nowell, a sophomore guard, had 20 points for Bishop Loughlin (19-7). His ability to break down defenders and get to the rim really hurt Molloy, and he would often finish with two points of his own or a great pass to an open teammate. Loughlin had four different players in double figures, including 21 from junior forward Keith Williams. The Lions got to the title game by beating defending champion Christ the King in overtime in the semifinals.

Offensively, Molloy (21-5) struggled to get going. Luckily, Grant was everywhere. He finished with a game-high 22 points due to his outstanding effort crashing the offensive glass.

“It’s hard to beat them three times,” Grant said. “They came out hard, played hard, they hit shots and the ball seemed to land in their hands the whole game.”

Bishop Loughlin ran, and just when it looked like they would take a breather, they ran some more. Molloy gave up plenty of points in transition because they were rarely able to set up their half-court defense and use their height advantage. Between the many missed shots and countless turnovers, they gave the seemingly faster Bishop Loughlin team plenty of easy looks at the rim.

“They have two big guys so our coaches told us to play fast,” said Loughlin’s Williams.

The offensive struggles of Molloy’s perimeter players also hurt their spacing, making it difficult for sophomore center Moses Brown and Grant to operate.

“I would get the ball in the post and I’d have like three guys around me,” Grant said. “It’s hard playing against two or three guys.”

Despite losing in the championship game, Molloy earns a bye into the CHSAA Intersectional quarterfinals March 6 at Fordham University.

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