Rice High once again reminded everyone why they are currently the top ranked team in New York City as they thoroughly dominated Archbishop Molloy by a final of 88-52 at the Gaucho gym in the Bronx on Tuesday night.
As usual, Rice's relentless full court press put the pressure on early and often, forcing Molloy into bad passing angles which led to numerous turnovers and a quick 9-2 deficit. Connecticut bound point guard Kemba Walker was outstanding in the first half at both ends of the floor, hounding star Stanner guard Russ Smith on defense while driving the lane with great ease for easy lay-ups offensively. The Raider senior led all scorers for the game with 20 points to go along with his four steals.
Rice got another great all around performance from 6'6" senior Dorvell Carter, who keyed a 12-3 run to start the second period that put the Raiders up 32-15 at 4:00. The lanky swingman controlled the glass defensively and showed off his handle, dishing out five assists to go along with 14 points. Carter pushed the ball constantly and connected on two long passes, leading to easy lay-ups for Rice as Molloy failed to get back.
Rice was able to penetrate both the box 1 and 2-3 zone that the Stanners threw at them relatively easy, scoring from both inside and beyond the arc. Jeff Harris and Drexel commit Chris Fouch came out on fire in the second half as they both hit two quick three pointers a piece to stretch the lead to 57-29 at the 3:39 mark of the third period.
After a Walker circus lay-up in which he drew a foul and converted the free throw for a three point play, Raider junior James Stukes took over down low. The 6'5" forward cleaned up the offensive boards for numerous put backs and even showed the crowd a little dazzle with a coast-to-coast steal and tough lay-up over a Molloy defender. He finished the game with 16 points.
Smith, the Stanner junior who is gathering some D-1 interest of his own, did his best to keep compete with the talented Rice backcourt, scoring 18 points. The combo guard with a shoot first mentality broke the Rice press easily a few times with his outstanding quickness, but didn't get much help most of the game, as the Rice defense was just too tough. The only other player in double figures for Molloy was Matt Grogan, who contributed 10 points.
"We don't have a lot of bona fide ball handlers right now," said Smith as he pointed out they were without one of their top guards in Malik Dean. "We have to come ready to play. I did the best I could, but I'm not going to beat five guys."
Especially when one of those guys is Walker, someone who Smith knows well, having played with him on Walker's first tournament team some years ago when Walker was only 13.
"I always look forward to playing Kemba," Smith said. "He is a truly great player. Playing against him makes me a better player. He's remarkable."
With the game firmly in hand as Rice took a 69-37 lead heading into the fourth period, head coach Maurice Hicks opted to rest most of his starters the rest of they way. They were already without one of their stars in junior forward Durand Scott, who was out with a bad back. Hicks said that he had been to the doctor and should be o.k. but that they need to rest him. Hicks pointed out it helps since the Raiders don't play again until next Tuesday in a big match up against Holy Cross. "This is a big week for us, preparation wise," Hicks said. "We'll take some time, look at some film. Hopefully we can come out strong against Holy Cross."
Walker is welcoming the long break before the next game. Though he said they are used to playing many games and a difficult schedule, it can still be hard.
"I know that we're going to be tired," he said. "But it's all about mental toughness right now. We're going to work hard and try to get this city championship."
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