Hayes Shocks Molloy; Wins CHSAA “AA” Championship
BRONX, NY- If there ever was a tale of a rags to riches story in the CHSAA it might belong to this year's Cardinal Hayes team. Having lost to All Hallows in the quarterfinals of the CHSAA Archdiocesan Playoffs, the Cardinals were a 5 seed in the Intersectionals, needing to win 4 games if they wanted take home the crown.
The road to get there was going to be incredibly difficult, and most onlookers pronounced the Cardinals done in for after the loss to the Gaels, figuring it was a strong regular season but a dud and flop by them in the playoffs.
As a team though the Cardinals were set out to prove everyone who didn't believe in them wrong, and when they took down Bishop Loughlin in the CHSAA Class "AA" Semifinals this past Wednesday it really raised some eyebrows. Getting it done against Archbishop Molloy on Sunday for the Championship though would be a whole other thing though.
They don't have the size, they don't have the strength, they don't have the depth. Cardinal Hayes players and coaches had been hearing all the reasons why they weren't going to win for the past 5 days now, but when you have the heart, and the will, and the desire that the Cardinals proved to have, you shouldn't ever count them out as a total team effort across the board led by CHSAA Playoff MVP Joe Toussaint '19 ultimately pushed Hayes to its first title since 1990, downing the Stanners of Molloy 64-62 at Fordham University.
Knowing they were the underdog the game plan according to Toussaint coming in was simple, there was no game plan. That may sound a bit odd, but when you go up against a team with the star power that Archbishop Molloy has, sometimes it's best to just want it more.
"To be honest we didn't have a game plan, they got a great guard and a guy who is 7 foot so it was all about playing harder," Toussaint said.
If they were to play harder he believed that they would be on the right end of the scoreboard at the end of the day, even if no one else may have believed that to be in any way possible.
With most believing that the size inside for Molloy would be too much for the Cardinals, they were able to get going from long range early to counter the Stanners size as Toussaint and Jontai Williams '18 each hit threes in the opening quarter to give Cardinal Hayes a lead, and when Moses Brown '18 picked up his 2nd foul with 1:02 left in the opening quarter, it built up the Hayes confidence and gave them a 5-point lead heading into the 2nd.
Having Brown on the bench allowed Cardinal Hayes to do more on the glass as well as Terry Dawkins '18 was able to get in good positions inside and score 8 points in the quarter, helping the Cardinals maintain their lead.
Cole Anthony '19 wasn't connecting from the field but he was doing a bit of everything else to keep Molloy in the game, with 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists at the half, but Cardinal Hayes was still clinging on to a 35-29 lead at the half.
It was as good of a half for the Cardinals as they could've hoped for taking a 6-point lead over the Stanners, and Hayes head coach Joe Lods knew that if they wanted to maintain the position they were in that it was going to take an even bigger effort from his group in the second half.
"We came in excited as if we had won the city title there and I said guys there is 16 more minutes left, they are going to come out with a vengeance," Lods about his halftime talk to his team.
The fact that they had barely seen Brown on the floor who was saddled on the bench with his 2 fouls also was cause for concern for Lods knowing that with the 7'0" big man back on the floor, things may not be as easy for the likes of Dawkins and Mark Jackson '17 in the paint.
Coming out for the second half though, Cardinal Hayes erupted by hitting back to back triples for the third time in the game to take their biggest lead at 41-29. From that moment on though it seemed as if the bell went off for the Stanners knowing it was go or go home time, and Anthony decided to take more initiative offensively to get his team going, driving to the basket and getting fouled to bring the deficit down to single digits, and with a finish again just before the buzzer to end the 3rd quarter, the lead was trimmed all the way down to 49-46 for Cardinal Hayes.
Clearly a momentum swing was in play and after a throwdown with 2 hands by Brown, Molloy had their first lead since very early in the first quarter, going up 50-49 with 5:54 to go. Lods would call a timeout to settle down his team as the Stanners faithful were out in full force and making a lot of noise at this point, but that's when the biggest shot of the game in Lods' eyes took place.
Off the timeout, Tyrese Williams '18 came around a screen and got free in the left corner, burying a three to put Cardinal Hayes back up, and while it wasn't a lead that they held on to the rest of the way, it was a shot that Lods certainly knew the importance of for his squad.
"That was the shot of the game for me," Lods stated. "We knew they were going to make a run and we held them off as long as we could, and then they took a lead but our guys showed a lot of resiliency and resolve and didn't let it get away from them."
Along with that shot it was the presence defensively of Jackson inside to clean up on a pair of Molloy misses that seemed to settle the game down just a bit and get Cardinal Hayes back on track of accomplishing their mission.
With the game tied back up at 58 and just over a minute to play, Hayes was once again with the ball and another unsung hero in Jackson stepped up taking the ball to the basket right at Khalid Moore '18, finishing against the contact while getting fouled. He connected on the FT as well to make it a 61-58 lead, and Jackson just felt like if he was going to go home with the trophy he so desperately wanted, it was time to step up and make a big play.
"It was time to go, it was time to win because I didn't want to go home without the championship," Jackson said.
Molloy had their chances late to take the lead again, or at the very least send it to OT as after Brown went 2-2 at the FT line to make it a 1 point game, Toussaint could just go 1 of 2 down on the other end, giving the Stanners once last shot.
Down 64-62, Anthony had the ball in his hands and was able to get to the basket with the seconds ticking down. Anthony admitted after the game that he saw a lane and felt he could sneak through and tie the game up, but the lane closed and he put up a contested runner that fell off the left side of the rim and with the ball loose in a scrum under the basket, time would eventually run out, as Cardinal Hayes pulled off what many felt was improbable, winning the CHSAA Intersectional Championship by taking down Archbishop Molloy in dramatic fashion, 64-62.
Williams had a game high 15 points for Cardinal Hayes, while Toussaint was named Playoff MVP after his 12 point, 9 assist, 5 rebound effort, with Dawkins adding 12 points as well in what was a true all around team victory.
The final seconds for Lods proved to be trying times as he jokingly said that he might have lost consciously momentarily, but he was so happy when the final buzzer sounded knowing that the dream of his of winning the City Championship for Hayes had finally come true.
"I just think it was meant to be," Lods said. "I went to Mass today, I lit a candle, and I just hoped for the best and today we got it."
On the other end of the stick though it was Archbishop Molloy who fell just short of winning the school's first title since 1987. Brown had a fantastic second half in defeat in scoring 19 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, while Anthony nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Coming so close they could for a few moments taste it, it was tough for Brown after the game, but he knew that Cardinal Hayes just had a bit more energy on Sunday, giving them the slightest of all edges to come out on top.
"They came out with great energy early and we knew we had to match it and we did, we just came out on the wrong side of the score today," Brown explained after the loss.
All the hard work and all the dedication put in by Lods, his associate head coach Tim Philp, and everyone involved with the Cardinal Hayes basketball program paid off on Sunday with the CHSAA Intersectional Championship. It was what everyone on the Cardinals had always dreamed of, and the dream was finally a reality.
It seems to be a pretty special year for Cardinal Hayes as a school too with the soccer program taking home the Class "B" title this season, and the football team winning their first "AAA" crown. They can now add to that the "AA" basketball title, with Williams saying that in the schools 75th year of existence, he hopes now more trophies are on the way.
"The soccer team won one this year, the football team won one this year, the basketball team has now won one this year, so the pressure is on the baseball team now to do it too," Williams said with a beaming smile.
Everything truly is coming up gold for Cardinal Hayes, the new CHSAA Intersectional Champions.