Cole Anthony had an open path to the basket and the Archbishop Molloy sophomore was confident enough to leap just after the foul line and throw down a slam-dunk filled with authority.
It was a Friday night to enjoy for Anthony, who finished with a game-high 32 points as Molloy captured the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens diocesan championship in an 80-67 boys basketball victory over Bishop Loughlin held at Christ the King High School in Middle Village.
“I was coming down the lane and I was like let me try it. I was feeling pretty good during the game,” Anthony said. “I had my adrenalin pumping and everything. Everything clicked and it just happened.
Archbishop Molloy (19-7) earned a bye in the first two rounds of the CHSAA Class AA Intersectional city playoffs and next play on March 5 in a quarterfinal game at Fordham University. The Stanners are ranked second in the News 12 Varsity New York City rankings.
Anthony had clear motivation to upend Bishop Loughlin, who won by 12 points to claim the diocesan title last year against the Stanners. Molloy set the tone and the tempo with Anthony orchestrating the offense along with getting strong games from Moses Brown who had 16 points and Khalid Moore on both ends of the floor with 15 points.
“That’s just been in the back of my head for the past year, since that day. I had a stomach virus and I played through that. I still thought we should have won it even with that,” Anthony said. “But that was just a learning opportunity. We fed off that energy since last year and we lost that, but we came back here and won.”
The Lions had come into this game with plenty of momentum following a thrilling 98-90 double overtime semifinal game less than 48 hours prior against Christ the King.
Molloy responded defensively to keep the Lions high scoring duo of league MVP Keith Williams and Markquis Nowell to 18 points and 17 points respectively. But the top seed also showed a bit of maturity when possible danger arose when Anthony along with Brown each picked up its second foul midway through the second quarter.
Anthony remained on the floor and continued to attack the basket along with getting his teammates the ball in open spots as Molloy ended the first half on a 16-6 run to take a 39-29 halftime advantage into the locker room.
“I thought the big key is that Cole was in complete control of the game from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Besides making the shots, he just controlled tempo,” Molloy coach Mike McCleary said.
Jackson Vertucci, John Herring and Jade Tse gave key contributions to help the top seed to extend their lead going into the second half. The 6-5 Moore finished off a fast break dunk to extend the Stanners to its largest lead at 58-45 late in the third quarter.
“We just got stops and that picked up our offense. We just kept pushing from there,” Moore said. “We knew they were going to come into this game with a chip on their shoulders. We just knew we needed to match their intensity and just keep playing hard.”
Bishop Loughlin (19-6) will earn a double bye into the city playoffs and await its quarterfinal opponent on March 5 at the Rose Hill gym. Justin Champagne added 15 points for the Lions, who are third in New York City by News 12 Varsity.
Molloy will have a few days off until getting back into the gym and Moore believes Friday’s title victory will serve as a reminder for the team to set their sights on more silverware.
“I’m always going to keep it in the back of my mind,” Moore said. “I always have the city and the state championships on my mind because that’s the ultimate goal.”