In what has become practically a calling card for their resilient group, the Long Island Panthers used an Aubin Scott three-pointer with :06 left to play in regulation to stave off defeat and hold off the Bronx-based Mustangs AAU program, 59-58, in the quarterfinals of the IS8 playoffs in South Jamaica, Queens.
A long-range pull-up and pair of free throws by St. Raymond's Louie McCroskey around the one-minute mark put the Panthers on their heels, as the Mustangs mounted a four point lead, 57-53. Louisville-bound Taquan Dean responded by canning a three-pointer from the corner to pull the Mustangs to within one, 57-56, with :22 seconds to play.
After a Mustang free throw pushed their lead to two with :15 seconds to play, Hempstead High School's Scott drained a straightaway trey to seal out the game. The Mustangs would get one more decent look at the hoop, but come up short.
The win overshadowed a courageous effort by a gritty Mustang team. Buoyed by 11 first half points by 6-2 combo guard Elijah Muldrow from the Christopher Robin School in Queens and 10 points by McCroskey, the Mustangs took a five point lead into the half, 31-26.
The Mustangs were able to maintain a three-point edge through three quarters, as Iona pledge Marvin McCullough from All Hallows High School lofted a beautifully placed baseball pass to a streaking Muldrow for the lay-in and McCroskey angled in for two, pushing the lead to three, 48-45, as time expired in the third.
The game was deadlocked at 53 for two minutes late in the fourth quarter before McCroskey's buckets cemented a four-point edge for the Mustangs, setting up Scott's heroics.
Arguably the best player on the floor on this night was Muldrow. The gritty combo guard showed a willingness to take it up against Jason Fraser and Curtis Sumpter again and again. The native of Far Rockaway, Queens, impressed with his toughness and fearless play.
Muldrow, who is a junior in academic standing, was ineligible this past season at the Christopher Robin School in Queens. Previously he had attended St. Raymond's High School in the Bronx for his junior year and spent his freshman and sophomore years at The Orme School in Arizona.
Muldrow is likely going the JUCO route. Among the programs he is considering are Ventura JC in California and some San Francisco area junior colleges.
Also extremely impressive was St. Raymond's McCroskey. The 6-4, 180-pound junior WG/WF was active at both ends of the floor and showed a willingness to step up during pivotal stretches in the game. McCroskey is a bit of a tweener, but he possesses a quick first step, solid mid-range game, and an ability to attack the glass. He also handles well. At his early junction, only Rutgers has been keeping steady tabs on McCroskey. Members of the school's staff recently saw him work out.
We find this lack of interest surprising. McCroskey had a solid junior season for coach Gary DeCeasare and has performed well throughout the IS8 league. McCroskey will play this summer with the New York Ravens AAU team and will participate in the Adidas ABCD camp. He should boost his stock considerably over the summer. He looks like he might still have another growth spurt in him, so Louie is definitely worth keeping tabs on. McCroskey is someone whom we would characterize as a money player, someone who just gets it done time and time again.
Other standouts included 6-3 PF Sam Moise from Kennedy High School in the Bronx, who despite his stature, continues to battle you every night out and attack the glass. The lefty would be an excellent pick-up for a high Division II program.
For the Panthers, Sumpter led with 16 points, contributing his usual balanced effort. Jason Fraser added 12 points, but was quiet on this night.