CHSAA Intersectional Quarterfinals (Day 1)
In these unprecedented times the CHSAA has started to trudge through with the Intersectional Class AA Quarterfinals beginning on Wednesday. Both games were held at Archbishop Stepinac H.S. in White Plains with the other two quarterfinals to take place on Friday at Mount St. Michael.
Even though there were no fans in attendance it was a great pair of games that took to the court, with the intensity from the coaches and players making at least the best of a not so great situation. Here is a recap of the two games that took place in Westchester County on Wednesday with the opener proving to be a true back and forth affair that needed an extra session to complete.
Msgr. Scanlan Halts St. Francis Prep, 73 – 68 in OT
Once their quarterfinal game against St. Francis Prep got postponed this past Friday evening Msgr. Scanlan head coach Dwayne Mitchell said it was his job to just keep his team ready for whenever they would eventually take the court for their contest against St. Francis Prep.
He didn't know until Monday evening he said that the makeup date would be Wednesday, and even with no fans or spectators in attendance he said there was not going to be an excuse for his team to not be ready and focused for the task at hand.
"At the end of the day sometimes you got to do things by yourself and while we love and feed off of the support we get from our fans we wanted to go out and play for them even if they couldn't be there and give them a result they would be proud of," Mitchell explained.
It wasn't the greatest of all starts out of the gate though for the Crusaders as they didn't hold a lead at all until 1:12 left in the third quarter, and even from that point on St. Francis Prep was showing that they weren't going to go away.
After Koby Brea '20 hit a pair of FT's with 8.1 seconds left in regulation to give Scanlan a 62-60 lead it looked as if the Crusaders were in a good spot, only to see Todd Rochelle '21 see the oceans part for the Terriers to connect on an easy layup with 1.0 left on the clock to square things back up. A last second heave was no good and OT would be needed to finish the opening quarterfinal.
Seeing the lead slip away in the closing second wasn't what Mitchell wanted at all as he asked his team for one big defensive stop, but in the huddle before the extra session began he preached to not let that affect them moving forward knowing that they were still four minutes away from advancing to the semifinals.
"I just said we need to stay together because a lot of times when something like that happens immaturity can set in and they can drop a bit so I just wanted us to settle down doing into overtime and make the plays I know we could make," Mitchell stated.
While Rochelle opened the OT scoring for St. Francis Prep with a pair of FT's it was the size inside of Scanlan that began to take over as Hamdel Mohammed '20 and Joe Munden '20 each would post up against a small Terriers frontline and be able to finish down low for bucket to quickly get the Crusaders back the lead.
Scanlan was up 68-65 with under a minute to go when Jaden Daughtry '22 would connect on his third three ball of the game to see the game tied back up, but not much after that it was Munden who stepped up and connected on a three of his own to put the Crusaders back up three at 71-68, a shot that while had Mitchell nervous he was good with because of who took it.
"I made a pact and told all my seniors this week that I'm going to give them the opportunity to win the game or lose the game and Joe has been with us for a while and he stepped up there made the big shot when we needed it," Mitchell said.
Instead of looking for the quick two to extend the game, St. Francis Prep after a timeout would slow the game down and run their offense looking for the best outside look, they could get to again try and tie the game back up. The shot they got was a Chance Morrish '22 look that went off the front rim with Brea able to secure the rebound as he was immediately fouled sending the senior Dayton commit to the line for a 1 and 1.
Brea calmly sunk the first and then the second to all but secure the win with 5.6 seconds left as a last second Terriers shot was no good, propelling Msgr. Scanlan to the Intersectional Semifinals with a very hard fought 73-68 victory in OT over St. Francis Prep.
In the victory it was Brea leading the way for Scanlan with 18 points but make no mistake about it he had a lot of help as Mohammed and D.J. Bailey '20 each had 16 points while Munden added 15 as well. For St. Francis Prep in the loss it was Daughtry with 17 while Briscoe and Rochelle each chipped in with 15 in defeat.
Moving on to the semifinals now has Mitchell excited as he gets to play another game with a group he says he loves to coach, and while it may be under strange and unusual circumstances he is ready to roll with it as his Crusaders group is ready for any challenge next put in front of them.
"It's been an up and down year for us with all the injuries and other situations that have happened so to now be at full strength so we can win or lose as the team I know we can be is a great thing," Mitchell said. "They deserved this and we are happy to be playing for at least another day."
St. Raymond Smashes Archbishop Molloy, 82 - 54
The team that Msgr. Scanlan will be facing in the semifinals will be St. Raymond as the Ravens rolled out to a quick 23-12 lead after one quarter over Archbishop Molloy and never looked back en route to the convincing and comfortably 82-54 win.
Much like the Crusaders, the Ravens didn't let the postponement of games and the fact that they were playing at Stepinac on Wednesday in front of empty stands affect them as St. Raymond head coach Jorge Lopez said that he stressed to his team that nothing should get in their way of achieving the dream and goal of a CHSAA title.
"We kept it business as usual," Lopez said. "Right before the start I said we aren't the only ones going through this, team and sports leagues all over are being affecting and it’s something we just have to deal with if we want to keep playing."
Nothing fazed St. Ray's early as Dallis Dillard '21 hit a pair of three's in the opening quarter to give the Ravens a commanding edge at the start, and with Luis Kortright '20 and Francesk Pllumaj '21 draining a pair of three's each in the second stanza it was the Ravens taking a 44-28 lead over the Stanners into halftime.
Most up by 16 at halftime we feel a sense of ease knowing that they were not far off from advancing but Lopez said the fact that they were in a similar situation to what Molloy was in just over a week ago allowed him to put things into perspective for his team.
"I reminded them at the half of the game we were in against Scanlan in the Archdiocese semifinal where they were up 15 and we stormed back," Lopez explained. "It was a very similar situation and if we took our foot off the gas, we could allow that to happen to us."
That message seemed to sink in for the Ravens as they were just as potent and dangerous in the third quarter as they were in the opening half. Kortright was able to finish in the lane without any issues, and Malachi Smith '21 was making things happen for him and everyone else around him.
St. Ray's lead grew in the fourth to as big as 33 before a late spurt by Molloy made things just a little bit closer as Kortright had 17 points to lead four Ravens in double figures as they were in firm control from start to finish in their dominating 82-54 victory.
The Stanners got 12 points from Michael Hernandez '21 to pace the way for them but this was a superb effort defensive from St. Raymond to limit all the big threats from Molloy, and while they did score 82 points as a team it was his team's defensive performance that Lopez said pushed them to Wednesday's win.
"We said we wanted to take them out of their comfort zone, and if we applied the type of pressure I knew we could I felt we could take them out of wanted to do and we were able to do that," Lopez admitted.
Now it's going to be St. Raymond taking on Msgr. Scanlan for a fourth time this season. The Ravens have won two of the first three but with a time, date, and venue for this semifinal contest up in the air many if's remain.
Lopez though doesn't want that on his players as he says their only task is to focus on the Crusaders, and prepare for what they bring on the court as they get ready for should be in his eyes another tough and difficult challenge with a title game berth to be on the line.
"The focus is just to get ready for Scanlan, that's it," Lopez said. "Let's just come up with a game plan and worry about nothing else because I just want them ready to play."