CTK survives Molloy scare, 60-59

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It was almost a foregone conclusion. Marlon Smith just didn’t miss.

Consistently one of the best free-throw shooters in the entire CHSAA, the Archbishop Molloy senior guard had a chance to tie his team’s CHSAA semifinal match against Queens rival Christ the King with just 0:00.2 showing on the game clock Sunday at Fordham University. Two free throws to extend the game, the season and Smith’s high school career.

But his first attempt clanked off the left side of the rim. He attempted to miss the second shot so one of his teammates could tip in the rebound — Molloy’s final chance — but as luck would have it, the ball touched nothing but net.

“I’m a pretty good free-throw shooter, probably the best on the team,” Smith said afterward. “I felt I should have knocked it down. I felt really confident about hitting the shot.”

The result was that the CK Royals held off a valiant and frenetic comeback by the Stanners to win in overtime, 60-59, and advance to the CHSAA Class A final against league powerhouse St. Raymond’s. The game was scheduled for Wednesday night at Fordham University.

Smith wept openly on the floor after the game, but pushed back his tears long enough to accept a plaque for being named to the CHSAA’s first team.

“Leo Durocher, when he managed the Giants, said, ‘I’d rather be lucky than good,’” said Christ the King head coach Bob Oliva. “There’s no such thing as a lucky loser. Sometimes luck plays a big part in it. Who expects Marlon to miss a free throw? He’s probably one of the top free-throw shooters in the city.”

Just before Smith (20 points) went to the line, Christ the King backcourt mates Japhet McNeil and Mitchell Beauford both tried to shake the Molloy standout.

“I thought he was going to knock it down,” said Beauford, who led all scorers with 22. “I was really shocked. We talked to him, trying to get into his head. It shocked me he missed.”

McNeil, who broke a 47-all tie with a three-pointer 10 seconds into overtime, was a little more direct.

“I whispered some words in his ear,” said McNeil, who scored 11 points, 9 in overtime. “I told him, ‘Big-time players make big-time plays.’ I mean, Marlon is a great player. I respect his game to the third power. But that’s my motto, big-time players make big-time plays. And he missed the free throw. He had a great game though, he had a great season. I respect him.”

That Smith was in a position at all to tie the game was a testament to the grit of the Molloy team, which struggled in the early going, trailing by as much as 11 midway through the third quarter.

The Stanners (17-11) started the game slowly, missing a host of three pointers, but managed an 8-0 run to lead 8-5 with 3:35 remaining in the first. CK, however, went on a 9-0 run to end the first quarter and lead 14-8 to start the second. A three by sophomore Chris Martin (12 points) followed by a basket by Beauford pushed the Royals’ advantage to 11 early in the second.

Christ the King (23-6) was up 11 after Beauford hit two free throws with 1:21 remaining in the first half, but a free throw by Sundiata Gaines (14 points) and a last-second shot by Joseph Mackey pulled Molloy within single digits at the half, 27-19.

Beauford had 13 at the break and said he was surprised Molloy did not look to contain him more.

“I thought they were going to play a triangle-and-two on us, but they really didn’t,” Beauford said. “They just let me catch the ball and I’m a slasher so I caught the ball and just went to the basket.”

The Stanners battled their way back into the game through attrition, outrebounding the bigger, stronger Royals on the offensive end. Molloy was within four, 40-36, at the start of the fourth and, after back-to-back threes by Vincent Falzone and Smith, took its first lead since the first quarter, 42-41.

“Let’s give credit to Molloy,” Oliva said. “They showed us a lot of stuff today. They threw the whole bullpen at us. Jack [Curran] has been coaching for 40 some odd years and he certainly knows all the tricks, there’s no doubt about it. We tried to second guess it all week. What would they do? We worked on every possible thing since Naismith invented the game.”

Mackey tied the game with 1:11 remaining in the fourth when he stole the ball away from McNeil near midcourt and went in for the easy layup. The Royals held for the final shot, but Martin’s last-second attempt missed its mark.

In overtime, however, McNeil came to life, starting things off with a three, taking away all the momentum that was Molloy’s.

“I was struggling early on and in regulation,” McNeil said. “Then in overtime I just put it all behind my back and said, ‘Let’s get the win.’”

“I thought we had momentum going into overtime,” Smith said. “I thought we were going to pull away, but then Japhet hit a three. That kind of brought the momentum back to them.”

CK went up by five with 1:08 to play when McNeil hit a jumper in the lane, but a finger-roll by Smith and a layup by Ivan Marnika made it a one-point game. Seconds later, McNeil hit one of two with the 6-foot-1 Gaines corralling the rebound and calling timeout.

On the last play, Smith worked the ball inside and was surrounded by three CK players before Justin Marshall was whistled for the foul. Smith then went to the line with less than a second on the clock.

“It wasn’t exactly an outstanding performance by the Royals, that’s for sure,” Oliva said. But it was a win and that’s the most important part.”

St. Raymond's 75, Christ the King 69. The Ravens of St. Raymond's (25-3) completed a three-game sweep over Christ the King, claiming the 76th Annual CHSAA Intersectional Basketball Championship Wednesday night at Fordham University in the Bronx.

The Royals rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit to take a 48-47 lead with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter on a three-pointer by Beauford (23 points). But St. Ray's answered with a basket by Brian Laing ( 18 points, 14 rebounds) and two by Louie McCroskey (20 points, 11 rebounds) to take a 53-52 lead into the fourth.

CK kept is close, pulling within one, 63-62, on a basket by Brian Williams (16 points, 14 rebounds) at the 2:27 mark, but a three by Gavin Grant (13 points) and two free throws by Tariq Atkins (14 points) pushed the St. Ray's lead to eight with just 1:43 remaining.

Justin Marshall added 16 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals for CK, which moves onto to play St. Mary's (Manhasset) Friday in the CHSAA state semifinals. The winner will play St. Ray's in the state finals Sunday.

Archbishop Molloy 72, Rice 68. The Stanners shocked Rice in the quarterfinals Friday night at Holy Cross High School behind a 28-point performance by Smith. Smith hit a clutch jumper over 7-foot-2 Shagari Alleyne with 9.2 seconds left in the game to seal the win. Gaines added 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals.

Christ the King 65, St. Francis Prep 42. In the other quarterfinal Friday, the Royals easily ousted the Terriers. Marshall led with 14, while McNeil added 11. St. Francis Prep, which finished 16-11, was led by Bryan Geffen with 14.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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