In New York's CHSAA, Archbishop Molloy has been one of those enigmatic teams that you never quite know what to expect from. The Stanners had piled up some impressive performances at the Hall of Fame Invitational mixed in with some quality league wins to go along with a sprinkling of lackluster games. Molloy is a talented, if erratic, bunch.
On Friday night, the Stanners pulled another surprise out of their hat. Buoyed by terrific guard play, Molloy shocked Rice in the semifinals of the CHSAA playoffs, bouncing Mo Hicks' team with a 72-68 decision. Point guard Marlon Smith poured in 28 points, including some key second half three-pointers, while junior guard Sundiata Gaines was a defensive juggernaut, racking up six steals to go along with 15 points.
Throughout the game, Molloy struggled to contain 7'3'' Shagari Alleyne. Alleyne helped Rice open up an early 19-9 lead with a pair of dunks. The Rutgers commit would pump in 25 on the night, most of them on dunks.
Molloy, keyed by Gaines, clawed its way back. The Stanners drew to 19-15 with 5:46 to play in the second quarter on a steal and a lay-in by Gaines. After some Molloy free throws pulled them to within one, 25-24, with 3:29 left in the half, Gaines found Smith on the break for a three. Smith would add another three on the next possession, Molloy taking a 30-27 lead. They would take a 36-32 lead into the half, with Smith leading the way with 14 points.
A barrage of three-pointers helped push Molloy's lead to double-digits in the third.
Ivan Marnika opened the third quarter with a triple, and three-pointers by Smith, Gaines, and forward Vinny Falzone pushed the Stanners' lead to 53-42 late in the third.
Molloy would lead by as many as 16, 58-42, with 2:13 to play in the third, before Rice stormed back.
Alleyne and junior Russell Robinson were the catalysts for the comeback. Shagari barged through the lane for dunks repeatedly in the second half, keeping Rice afloat. Robinson knocked down threes, angled in for baseline pull-ups, and found ways to put it in. The duo chipped away at Molloy's lead, while teammate Steven Dyer cut the lead to one, 68-67, with 1:08 left in regulation.
Consecutive charging calls on Molloy gave Rice the ball, down one, with :33 seconds left. After Dyer tied the game at 68-68 with a free throw, Smith drove baseline and lofted a shot over Alleyne. The ball bounded off the rim and dropped with :7.7 seconds left. Two free throws by Smith sealed the victory.