basketball Edit

Stepinac Checkmates Cardinal Hayes

MIDDLE VILLAGE, NY – Saturday’s final at Christ the King Regional HS between Archbishop Stepinac and Hayes was more than just the Class “AA” New York Sectional Championship according to Crusader’s head coach Pat Massaroni. “There has been a lot of hype around who’s the best team.”

Massaroni believes their emphatic, 51 – 40, victory over the Cardinals should silence the naysayers. “I think the first half we executed our gameplan taking them out of what they like to do,” said Massaroni.

It was a low scoring affair overall but especially for Hayes. In the first half, the Cardinal’s go-to-guys Toby Awaka and Ian Jackson were held to one field goal collectively. “We were gonna let somebody else beat us,” said Coach Massaroni.

For a hot minute it appeared as if Hayes was up to the challenge as diminutive 5'9" point guard DJ Victory '22 scored all but two of the Cardinals first half points. Ahead by six after the first quarter, Stepinac increased its advantage to 18 – 10 at the half utilizing a balanced offensive attack spearheaded by 6'3" Samuel Gibbs '22, Boogie Fland '24 and 6'5" Ben Lyttle '23.

Joel Baez & Samuel Gibbs
Joel Baez & Samuel Gibbs

Jackson began to break free from the Crusaders defensive bondage in the third quarter but had little help from his teammates. Because the point spread was low, Hayes was able to make a significant run narrowing its deficit to three-points going into the fourth quarter. Even though Hayes became more aggressive, Stepinac withstood their attack.

“At halftime we knew were gonna make a run,” said Massaroni. “I think our guys executed perfectly.”

Two late blocks by 6'5" Joel Baez '22 coupled with dunks by 6'7" Isaiah Alexander '22 help shift the momentum in Stepinac’s favor and with about four minutes left in regulation a trey by 6'0" Danny Carbuccia '25 pushed the Crusaders lead to 11 points where it would remain until the final buzzer.

“We’ve been separated by one or two in the standings, seedings, ranking locally and nationally. Winning this championship is just more motivation for our guys,” said Coach Massaroni.

Fland led Stepinac with 15 points, 2 assists and 3 steals with Alexander adding 12 points and 7 rebounds. Awaka was still the high scorer for Hayes with 14 points and double-digit rebounds. Victory also contributed 14 points for the Cardinals.