By Laura Amato
Cole Anthony thought he had the shot – twice.
The Archbishop Molloy sophomore guard tried to tie up the game twice in the waning moments of Sunday’s CHSAA “AA” championship tilt at Fordham, but came up short as the Stanners fell 64-62 to Cardinal Hayes.
Anthony – who helped spark a second-half rally for the Stanners – was certain he had the space to take the shot, but the Cardinals’ defense held strong down the stretch.
“I just saw a lane and I thought I could get to the basket,” said Anthony, who notched 17 points and 10 rebounds. “That was really all.”
It was a frustrating start to the championship for the Stanners, who were plagued by foul trouble from the opening tip. 7-foot center Moses Brown picked up his second foul with just over a minute left in the first quarter and spent most of the first half on the sidelines.
Brown’s absence on the court and, specifically on the block, made it difficult for Molloy to grab any momentum and the Stanners went into the break facing a six-point deficit.
“We talked about it before the game and we talked about it at halftime, they were winning every 50-50 ball,” said Molloy coach Mike McCleary. “They kind of out-scraped us and we really focused when we were down on winning those balls. When it’s out there and anybody can get there, be the one who gets it.”
Cardinal Hayes opened up the third quarter with a pair of quick three-pointers, jumping out to a 12-point lead less than a minute into the second half, but Molloy refused to back down.
The Stanners called timeout, regrouped and started pushing the tempo – jumpstarted by a determined Anthony and Brown’s return to the post.
Anthony racked up nine points in the third quarter, including a three-point play at the buzzer to make it a five-point game. It also proved exactly what Anthony is capable of – leading a team.
“He was certainly terrific in that half,” McCleary said of his standout guard. “He didn’t score except from the foul line in that first half, didn’t make a field goal. So he’s certainly capable of doing some great things.”
Anthony gave Molloy a two-point lead with 3:09 left on the clock and the Stanners were certain the tide of the game had officially turned.
“[Hayes] definitely came out there and forced it at the beginning of the game,” said Brown, who finished with a team-high 19 points and 17 rebounds. “We just came out with energy. We had to play harder and try to match their intensity.”
Hayes answered in kind, however, led by Mark Jackson, whose three-point play with 1:01 left gave the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish.
Brown was able to make it a two-point game on a putback with 7.5 seconds left – his fifth offensive board of the day – but that was as close as Molloy would get, unable to convert even after Tyrese Williams came up on the ensuing one-and-one.
It’s a difficult end to an otherwise dominant season for the Stanners and while team’s future is still bright, Molloy isn’t willing to look too far ahead too quickly.
“I hate to do that because we have seniors on their team that this is their last time playing high school basketball,” McCleary said. “That’s a big deal and for some of them it might be the last time playing period. So we’re not talking about next year now, we’ll talk about next year in maybe a week or a month from now.”