By Laura Amato
Cole Anthony saw the lane in front of him and figured he might as well try.
The Archbishop Molloy sophomore guard took off, flying through the lane and slamming down a dunk that brought the crowd to its feet as the top-seeded Stanners cruised to an 80-67 victory over Bishop Loughlin Friday in the BQCHSAA boys’ basketball championship game.
It was that kind of night for Anthony, who finished with a game-high 32 points as he controlled the tempo from the opening tip.
“I was feeling pretty good during the game, I had my adrenaline pumping and everything and everything just clicked,” Anthony said. “That just happened.”
Molloy set the tone from the get-go, using its defense to jump-start its offense and keep Loughlin on its toes. The Stanners took a 10-point lead into the break and never felt particularly challenged by a Loughlin team fresh off a two-OT semifinal victory.
“We change defense a lot when we play against them,” Molloy coach Mike McCleary said. “We don’t usually do that, but we need to when we play them because they’re very strong offensively. If we get them thinking and changing their offense, it slows them down and we got some break outs because of that.”
If there was a downside to Anthony’s performance, it came with 4:51 remaining in the first half when he was whistled for his second foul. He picked up his third midway through the third quarter, but Anthony never came off the court.
Instead, he refocused his game, locked in on what he had to do and found a way to stay productive on both sides of the ball.
“This year I’ve matured a lot as a player and a person and our relationship is built up,” Anthony said. “[Coach has] just been able to trust me and I’ve been able to play through it.”
Molloy stuck to the game plan down the stretch – even when 7-foot forward Moses Brown struggled with foul trouble as well – and the Stanners received contributions from just about everyone who stepped on the court.
Anthony, however, was the star, consistently finding the lane and setting up teammates while locking in on the defensive side of the ball as well.
“I thought that the big key was that Cole was in complete control of the game,” McCleary said. “He had two guys on him the whole game and he had three turnovers in 32 minutes. He was terrific tonight. If he plays like that, we’ll be tough to beat.”
The Stanners led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter, shutting down Loughlin’s biggest offensive weapons – Markquis Nowell and Keith Williams, who combined for 35 points.
It was a solid showing in the championship game, but Molloy is far from satisfied. This is simply the first step as the squad turns its collective attention toward a run for the city title.
“Everyone came in with the mindset of winning this game,” Anthony said. “But when we step into the gym for the next practice, it’s game time right there. The game starts right there.”