When Wendell Gibson fouled out with 2:55 remaining in the first overtime, the Archbishop Molloy Stanners' chances of knocking off defending champions St. Raymond's went with him - though Jack Curran's 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.
Gibson, who had owned the paint all game long, had to watch the final minutes from the bench along with fellow starters John Sikiric and Thomas Harrison. According to Curran, his depleted team simply could not match the Raven's firepower.
"We lost our best three players and they had [Hodge and Ray at the end]," Curran said. "It was a wonderful game for us, but it's never a victory when you lose a game."
Still, Molloy had a lot to be proud of. The Stanners hung with the defending champs every step of the way and seemed to grab the advantage early in the third quarter.
Hodge scored on an offensive rebound off his own missed three at 7:45 and Ray scored just over a minute later to cut Molloy's six-point halftime lead to two, 24-22. But Molloy answered quickly with a three by Maser and another bucket off a Gibson defensive rebound, when the Hofstra-bound big-man fired a bomb to the Maser, who laid it in for two.
The seven-point lead was Molloy's biggest of the game, but it would not last for long.
St. Raymond's struggled against Molloy in the first half, as the Stanners were intent on making it a half-court game. But after a halftime adjustment, the Ravens finally got their offense into high gear, just when they needed it.
"At halftime I told the guys we have to push the tempo," said Ravens coach Gary DeCesare. "We were trying to make the guys go down the court. For some reason we wanted to shoot threes."
Chris McRae scored six straight points, pulling St. Ray's to within one, 29-28. A steal and lay-in by Harrison, followed by a McRae offensive board and putback led to four straight points by the Stanners to retake a four-point lead that held up until the end of the third.
But moments into the fourth Gibson picked up his fourth foul, sending him to the bench, which gave the Ravens the opening they needed.
A free throw by Andrew Jarvis and a three by Ray tied the game at the 6:23 mark, while a free throw and basket by Ray gave St. Ray's the lead, 37-35.
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. Ray's 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. Hodge's 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 yet 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 Ray's in the final second capped the win.
"He didn't shoot too well from the field," said McRae of Hodge, "but I saw he was taking his time at the line."
"We knew this team could do it all year long," DeCesare said. "Julius is a big-time player. He made his free throws and that's what won the game."
Hodge, who had a woeful shooting day, finished with 14 points. Ray led the Ravens with 17, while McRae added 15. Gibson led Molloy with 17 points and 14 rebounds, Maser scored 14 and Harrison finished with 10.
For DeCesare's team, now 20-10, Glen Falls awaits and a shot at the Class 'A' State Federation title. For Molloy, which ends the season 20-10, there are only thoughts of next year and what could have been.
"Our kids were great," Curran said. "We played as well as we could play."
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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