He scored 44 points, 12 shy of the single−game record set by Kenny Anderson, but it’s what Archbishop Molloy senior guard Russell Smith did on the final inbound of the game that was the topic of conversation when the crowd filed out of Jack Curran Gymnasium following the Stanners’ stunning and controversial 87−84 victory against Bishop Loughlin Friday night.
With 1.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Smith in−bounded the ball and, instead of looking for an open teammate, attempted to roll the ball off Bishop Loughlin forward Rasi Jenkins’ foot down the sideline opposite the benches.
“That’s a veteran’s play,” Smith said, looking more like one of Vinny Leonardo’s bowlers. “Nobody would have thought about that, roll it off his foot and the time just rolls off and expires. I rolled it hard, it bounced off and it had some momentum on it.”
The ball went the length of the court and out of bounds and the clock never started. Head official Phil Sallustio raced to the scorers’ table, indicating the ball deflected off Jenkins, thereby ending the game.
It was one of the most bizarre endings to a CHSAA league game in the past 20 years.
“I knew what I was doing from the beginning,” Smith said. “I knew I was going to roll it off him from the start because I didn’t want to have a chance to (not) inbound it (or if) guys couldn’t get open. I wanted to end the game and I was smart enough to do that.”
Needless to say, it wasn’t a call made by legendary Molloy Coach Jack Curran.
“You have to think on your own sometimes,” Smith said. “You have to improvise.”
First−year Bishop Loughlin Coach Rudy King, of course, saw things differently. Sallustio never lowered his arm to indicate the play was live and the clock should start. Also, the ball never changed its trajectory as it slowly rolled up the court.
“I watched the mechanics — the hand never went down,” King said. “If his hand went down, the game would have been over when the ball rolled to half−court.”
Had the ball never touched another player, the Lions would have had a golden chance to tie the game, in−bounding the ball underneath their own basket with 1.9 seconds remaining. Jenkins said he never made contact with the ball, according to King.
“They do the code of conduct, they talk about Christian beliefs, they talk about fans being unruly, they do about all of these things you’re supposed to teach in terms of etiquette and you’re borderline misappropriation of authority like that,” King said.
“Don’t end the game like that,” he added. “That’s not right.”
The ending, perhaps unfairly, takes away from what Smith did during the other 31−plus minutes of the game. Known as an explosive guard who often tries to take a bulk of his team’s shots in his first two years of varsity ball, Smith was, for the most part, under control offensively.
“I told [my team] yesterday that Russell Smith is probably the premier guard in New York City,” King said. “Everybody talks about what he can’t do. I’ve seen Russ play since he was in the fifth−grade and he’s always scored. Since he’s grown now to 6−foot−1, he’s tremendous, man. We could have taken some more charges. But Russell Smith is the real deal.”
Smith shot 12−of−21 from the field and 18−of−22 from the foul line, including six consecutive free throws when Bishop Loughlin forward Jayvaughn Pinkston (32 points) fouled out on a technical foul called by Sallustio with 2:42 left in the fourth quarter.
At the time, the game was tied at 74. Six free throws later Molloy (7−3, 1−1 CHSAA ‘AA’ Brooklyn⁄Queens), which led by as many as eight in the fourth quarter, was back in front, 80−74.
“Jayvaughn is a guy who’s got tremendous talent,” King said. “But one thing that we, as a coaching staff, always try and work on with him is the full package. He got caught up emotionally. He feels remorseful about it.”
Smith was tremendous, but he was far from a one−man show Friday night. Jin Hong, a 6−foot−7 senior forward, battled valiantly inside against Pinkston and Trevon Hamlet. He had nine points, 12 rebounds and six blocks before fouling out with 3:09 left in regulation.
Lebrandon Smith had 10 points on 5−of−5 shooting from the field and Ryan Dillon scored four of his six points in the final 1:42, including a clutch three−pointer with 1:42 left.
As a team, Molloy shot 24−for−32 from the foul line, while Loughlin (8−3, 2−1) was 15−for−35 from the charity stripe. That, more than anything else, is what King lamented on his way back to Brooklyn.
“We take for granted our athleticism,” King said. “I always tell these guys you have to mix the IQ with the athleticism and the fundamentals and part of fundamentals is free throws.”
As for Molloy, it was a statement victory after back−to−back losses to All Hallows and Christian Brothers Academy (N.J.) in the final of the Holiday Hoops tournament at the Aviator Complex.
“Just coming out here proving we could hang with the big boys showed that we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” said Smith, who also had nine turnovers. “If I’m on top of my game, I feel like nobody can stop us in the league.”
©2009 Community News Group
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