The gritty, industrial South Bronx neighborhood
that houses that Gauchos's gym was an appropriate
meeting place for a junkyard dog-type rumble between
not only two of New York City's top high school
programs, but the nation's. Rice and Molloy check in
at five and six nationally on USA Today's Top 25, and
each is stacked to the gills with talent, particularly
in the backcourt.
The match-up pitted perhaps two of
the finest prep backcourts on the East Coast, Rice
with slick point man Jason Wingate, deadeye sniper
supporting cast that includes the bullish Kenny Eusey
and burgeoning sophomore talent Russell Robinson.
Molloy features a streaky shooter and flashy
ballhandler at the point in Marlon Smith, a junior and
Bronx native many Big East programs are keeping tabs
on, lanky senior wing Kevin Hamilton, the MVP of the
Gonzaga Tournament in D.C. who has been locked up by
Holy Cross, and sophomore manchild Sundiatta "Yadda"
Gaines, a wing with uncommon strength and skill for an
underclassmen. Toss in seven-footer Shagari Alleyne
and versatile forward Chistian Brown for the Raiders,
and a pair of forwards with face the basket skills for
Molloy in Jamal Wagner and Kevin Diffley, and the
Gauchos orange-clad quarters were brimming with
The pace was frenetic early, as Rice, as per their
signature, was able to parlay Molloy misses into
transition buckets. The Stanners struggled in trying
to contain Rice's explosive transition game all
evening, Raider guards Wingate and Clark helping to
ignite fast breaks time and time again. The game was
deadlocked at 30 midway through the second quarter,
Molloy trying to combat Rice's transition prowess with
their perimeter shooting. 6'3'' forward Jamal Wagner
stepped out and canned three three-pointers, while
Smith chipped in with two of his own.
But Rice, buoyed by the 5'9'' senior Clark's 16
first half points, rode the crafty bomber's hot hand
and slippery slashing moves to a lead before the half.
Clark beat his man off the dribble and converted on a
twisting lay-in, only to drill a three on the ensuing
possession, handing Mo Hicks team a 38-35 lead. "Kiki"
would help bolster Rice's lead by connecting on three
of four free throws and converting a fast break lay-up
off a feed from Wingate, as Rice extended their lead
to 46-39. Alleyne's emphatic dunk off a Burtt miss
would hold the advantage to seven, 48-41, heading into
Rice continued to roll after the break. A Burtt
transition lay-in and a pair of baskets by Clark, one
a putback for the sub-six footer, the other a pretty
drive that saw him twist and contort to convert an
off-balance lay-in. Tack on a foul-line leaner by the
long-armed Wingate, and Rice's lead had ballooned to
17 at the four-minute mark, 58-41.
Molloy's frigid perimeter shooting wasn't helping
matters for the Stanners, but a three-point play by
Gaines, who drew contact from Alleyne on a lay-in, a
pair of deep threes by Smith, and a pair of free
throws by the gangly 6'6'' Diffley cut the deficit to
nine, 62-53, heading into the final stanza.
Despite Alleyne altering nearly every shot in his
vicinity and the crush of Rice's transition game,
Molloy tried to claw their way back. After versatile
6'5'' small forward Christian Brown knocked down
threes on consecutive possessions for Rice, Hamilton
converted three free throws after being fouled behind
the arc and Diffley collected a quick five, converting
an old-fashioned three-point play and capping off a
Stanner fastbreak with a lay-in off a feed from
Hamilton. With less than six minutes to play, the Rice
lead had been cut to eight, 70-62.
The lead would be whittled down to six as Smith
spotted a cutting Gaines for a lay-in at the 4:30
mark, but once again Clark stemmed the Stanner tide,
slashing among the trees for a twising lay-up and the
foul. After a lay-up by Burtt and a transition bucket
from Burtt to Clark, the lead was back up to 13 with
three minutes left to play, 79-66, and Molloy had been
Wingate, who will take an official visit to South
Carolina this weekend, helped sink the Stanners with
two successful trips to foul line. Rice closed out the
CHSAA battle decisively, the final 91-70.
For a Molloy team that had entered the match-up
undefeated, with two prominent tournament titles under
their belt, the game was a humbling one. Gaines led
Molloy with 18 points, while Smith, who proved lethal
from behind the arc once he got hot, tallied 14
points, among them four threes. Hamilton collected 14.
Diffley, who handles the ball appreciably well for his
size, chipped in twelve, and the warrior Wagner 11,
including 3 three-pointers.
For Rice, Clark tallied 25 on a mix of deep balls,
slashing drives, and successful trips to the foul
line. Alleyne added 10 and seven or eight blocks(as
well as three goal-tending calls) as well as a slew of
rebounds, as the 7'2'' pivot changed the complexion of
the game at the defensive end of the floor with his
rejections and alterations. Wingate chipped in nine
while piloting the offense, and Brown tallied 8
points, including two three-pointers.