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Holy Cross gives Molloy a wake-up call

If there’s a lesson to be learned by the Archbishop Molloy boys’ varsity basketball team from its game against Holy Cross Sunday afternoon it’s that you can’t sleep on league opponents.

The Stanners (19-5) overcame a slow start to defeat the Knights, 58-48, in the first round of the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan Tournament at St. Francis College. Judging by the way Molloy played early on, a possible top seed and first round bye in the Intersectional playoffs weren’t motivating factors.

A battle between Molloy’s Marlon Smith and Miguel Gonzalez of Holy Cross never materialized, as each player was held below his scoring average. Other players made big contributions, however, and the game remained competitive until the end.

The Stanners led 23-20 at halftime, but the Knights were very much in the contest and playing with confidence. It took a 20-7 third-quarter explosion by Molloy to pull away from Holy Cross (10-15), at least until the final minutes.

Molloy’s trapping defense flustered Holy Cross in the decisive third. In the quarter, Sundiata Gaines provided a six-point spark off the bench and Kevin Hamilton recovered from a slow start to drill three three-pointers for Molloy. Gaines and Hamilton finished with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

“Sometimes it happens,” Hamilton said about his slow start. “I came out in the second half with the mentality to score and be aggressive.”

Did Molloy take Holy Cross too lightly?

“It’s hard to get pumped up for some teams,” Gaines confessed. “You can’t relax and take team for granted. [Holy Cross] gave us a good game.”

Holy Cross absorbed Molloy’s run and countered with a 12-5 spurt of its own to start the last quarter. The Knights finally figured out a way to beat Molloy’s pressure. Daniel Surrett scored three consecutive baskets, including a steal and dunk, to help make it 48-39 with 1:58 left. Moments later, he buried a three-pointer to narrow the score to 53-48 with 1:18 remaining.

Surrett went from potential hero to goat in the blink of an eye. In the final minute, he intercepted a pass at midcourt, but promptly gave the ball back to Molloy. Paul Tuomey, who made the steal, fed Gaines for an easy basket and a 55-48 lead. Surrett’s glum expression captured a frustrating day.

“We’ve played hard,” Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary said. “We just don’t make enough big plays to win games.”

Holy Cross started the game on a positive note. Gonzalez buried a corner three and pulled up for a jumper to put the Knights ahead, 9-2, at the 4:20 mark of the first. Gonzalez, who averages more than 20 points per contest, didn't make his usual impact. He finished with just 13 points, four coming in the second half.

In the end, it was another narrow lose suffered by Holy Cross. The Knights have played well enough to stay with the league’s best teams, but haven’t made the big plays to put them over the top. The loss assures them a No. 7 seed in the Intersectional playoffs next week.

When asked to sum up this season, Gilvary replied “frustrating is a good word.”

Hamilton and Smith, who finished with 14 points, struggled to find their shots in the first. Kevin Diffley picked up the slack. The senior forward scored all of his six points in the first half and displayed a deft passing touch around the rim with three assists.

Molloy defeated Holy Cross for the third time this season, but the close game may serve as a timely wake up call for the Stanners.

Christ the King 83, Monsiognor McClancy 55. The Royals advanced to the semifinals behind 22 points and eight assist by Mitchell Beauford, 18 from Justin Marshall, who added 10 blocks,.and 15 proints from Japhet McNeil. Wesley Matthews led the Crusaders with 17 points.

Bishop Loughlin 68, St. Francis Prep 55. Lions’ star Curtis Sumpter powered Loughlin past St. Francis Prep with 17 points. Kojo Mensah and Kirk Bunn each scored 12 for the winners.

Xavier 40, St. John’s Prep 37. Three days after clinching the Division II regular season crown, the Red Storm fell to Xavier despite 19 point from Desean Burke.

Second Round Games

Archbishop Molloy 69, Bishop Loughlin 63. The Stanners advanced to the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan finals with a six-point win Tuesday night over the Bishop Loughlin Lions at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.

Kevin Hamilton led the Stanners, who improved to 20-5 overall,with 24 points, including eight during crunch time. Kevin Diffley added 13 points and eight rebounds. Marlon Smith and Sundiata Gaines were also big for Molloy on the defensive side of the ball.

Curtis Sumpter, who will attend Villanova in the fall, scored 17 for Loughlin, which falls to 15-11.

Xaverian 66, Christ the King 52. The Royals were game, but could not hang with the Clippers down the stretch, as Brooklyn’s Xaverian advanced to the championship game to take on Molloy Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

Mitchell Beauford led Christ the King, which falls to 14-12, with 22 points. Chris Taft led all scorers with 25 points for the Clippers, now 17-8, followed by Shamar Green with 15.

Reach contributing writer Adam Martini by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext 130.

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