When Wendell Gibson fouled out with 2:55 remaining in the first overtime, the Archbishop Molloy Stanners chances of knocking off defending champions St. Raymonds went with him though Jack Currans team sure made it interesting.
The game was sealed at the charity stripe. Ravens Julius Hodge nailed four free throws in the final minute of the second overtime to give the Ravens a three-point lead. Allen Ray added another after missing his first with 7.1 seconds remaining to give the Bronx team a four-point lead and its second consecutive Catholic High School Athletic Association city championship, 60-56, Wednesday night at Fordham University.
The loss ended a terrific season for the Stanners, who were playing in their first city title game since Kenny Anderson ran the show in 1988. But it wasnt always a smooth ride for Curran and Co.
Anytime you make the finals its good, Curran said. I think it took us a while before we got the right group playing.
That right group consisted of five senior starters, Gibson, John Sikiric, John Jemmott, John Maser and Thomas Harrison, who guided the team after a shaky start to the season to its 10th appearance in the championship game.
In the title game, the Stanners hung with the defending champs every step of the way and seemed to grab the advantage early in the third quarter. But moments into the fourth Gibson picked up his fourth foul, sending him to the bench, which gave the Ravens the opening they needed.
The teams went at each other hard the rest of the way, with the momentum swinging back and forth, throwing the already raucous capacity crowd into a near frenzy down the stretch.
Harrison fouled out and Hodge hit two from the line with 29 seconds remaining to give St. Rays a three-point lead, but with 17 seconds left on the clock, Sikiric buried a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game. Hodges runner in the lane in the waning seconds was no good, forcing the first overtime with the teams deadlocked at 48.
After Gibson fouled at 2:55, Molloy went up by three in the first OT when Sikiric converted the conventional three-point play at 1:38, but a free throw by Louis McCroskey and two by Tariq Atkins tied the game in the final minute.
Kevin Diffley missed the front end of a one-and-one with 20.8 on the clock, but Hodge missed another potential game-winner at the buzzer, forcing yet another extra period.
Both McCroskey and Diffley scored to tie the game at 55 and Jamaal Wagner briefly gave the Stanners a one-point lead from the line with 1:02 to go, but Hodge hit two with 44.9 remaining, while Diffley again missed the front end of a one-and-one with 32.5 remaining. Hodge calmly sunk two more free throws at 22.4 and Rays in the final second capped the win.
Molloy ended its season with a 20-10 record and with thoughts of next year and what could have been.
Our kids were great, Curran said. We played as well as we could play.
Next year is already here for the Stanners, who will lose all five starters and eight players in all. But the team will incorporate a talented bunch of underclassmen, as both the Molloy junior varsity and freshman teams won their respective city championships.
Were really happy with the sophomore group, Curran said. The juniors have talent, we just have to rein it in.
Every years a new year, he added. You got to go one year at a time. You never know what youre going to do.
The returning junior class which won the junior varsity title a year ago is headed by Kevin Hamilton, Jamaal Wagner, Kevin Diffley, Paul Tourney and Leonzo Cuiman, while the talented Marlon Smith, the lone sophomore on the team this season, will lead the younger players who are moving up to the varsity.
As for the coach, who just completed his 43rd season as coach of the Stanners, Curran said he has every intention of returning to the team next year. He is currently preparing the Molloy varsity baseball team for the spring season.
I have no place to go, he joked.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0330, Ext. 130.
©2001 Community News Group
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