The Holy Cross Knights put up a donut in the final quarter of last season's match-up at Molloy High School.
Coach Paul Gilvary's team, who later went on to win the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan Championship that year, would not forget that game and played with a chip on their shoulder on Friday night, en route to a 55-53 league victory in the Briarwood, NY gym.
Archbishop Molloy came into this game with their hopes up for a positive turnaround in their season. Molloy, who had been without forward Jin Hong and guard Matt Grogan for the last number of games, were hoping that the placement of these two starters back into the lineup would help invigorate and spark the Stanners at home. The 6'5" Hong made a major contribution on the defensive end for Molloy, as he and 6'8" forward Ashton Pankey denied Cross of good looks around the basket. Instead, the strong senior guard three-some of Sylven Landesberg, Kayvon Roberts, and Blaise Ffrench were forced to play on the perimeter and knock down outside shots.
The Knights did struggle from the outside early, but they were able to crash the offensive glass and score a number of second chance points. A long three pointer by the Virginia-bound Landesberg at the first quarter horn gave the CHSAA school an 18-16 lead heading into the second frame.
Molloy, who has often relied to heavily on the perimeter play of junior guard Russ Smith, received a significant offensive contribution from the forward Pankey. Pankey used his athleticism by scoring on the fast break a number of times and also by finishing underneath the basket in coach Jack Curran's half court offense as well.
The second quarter was one of numerous lead changes, as each team went back and forth in what was an up and down game for both teams. With 14 seconds left, Holy Cross forward Tim Beinert changed the lead for the final time in the first half when he buried a three pointer to give the Knights a 34-32 lead going into the locker room at halftime. Pankey led all scorers with 12 points in the opening half, while the 6'1" guard Smith chipped in with 8 points as well for the Stanners. Landesberg and Ffrench had 9 points a piece to lead Holy Cross in the first half.
While the first half contained well executed offensive sets and fast break opportunities, the second half was anything but. Both teams turned the ball over numerous times in the second half as the game continued to sway often between the two Queens schools. Russ Smith began taking over offensively where he saw fit, as he was able to knock down a number of Kobe Bryant-esque off-balance jump shots. He was also able to get Ffrench, the guard who defended Smith the most in this game, into foul trouble as the senior guard picked up his fourth foul with 4.6 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Molloy was able to carry momentum into the final quarter, as they finished the third session up 46-43 against their borough rival. The fourth quarter mirrored much of the game, as the lead on the scoreboard continued to flip-flop. The senior Landesberg, who did not have a consistent shooting evening from the perimeter, was able to knock down a jump shot with just under five minutes to play, putting Cross ahead by a score of 51-50. However, Molloy would not give this game away without a fight, as Matt Grogan was able to convert a lay-up with 1:17 to go in the game putting Molloy ahead 53-51.
One way in which Holy Cross and Molloy are vastly different is in their senior leadership. Cross is senior-laden while Molloy is young and building for the future. The senior group showed their experience down the stretch, while Molloy showed their youth in the final minute of the game. With Molloy still up 53-51, the junior guard Smith was isolated and ran the shot clock down to three seconds before hoisting up a near impossible fade away jump shot. The ball took a long bounce off the back rim, where Sylven Landesberg went coast-to-coast for a lay-up and a foul. The senior who will be playing in the ACC next season knocked down the free throw that followed to put Holy Cross up 54-53. Molloy's next possession turned out to be just as disastrous as its previous one, as the Stanners threw the ball out of bounds. Landesberg was fouled and knocked down the front end of the one-and-one opportunity. The forward missed the second free throw, however a last second half-court heave at the buzzer by Smith was way off mark, landing the Knights the victory.
Landesberg led all scorers with 18 points on the evening, while fellow senior Kayvon Roberts added 11 in the winning effort. Smith led the Stanners in scoring with 16 points while the sophomore Pankey contributed 12 points.
Following the game, Holy Cross head coach Paul Gilvary reflected on the win as being one that wasn't pretty, but would be gladly taken by the Knights. "We knew it was gonna be a battle. Fortunately, we defended very well for I thought almost the whole game and especially the fourth quarter. The last couple of possessions we did what we wanted to do and Sylven made a big play, and we were able to win the game," said Gilvary.