Three hundred and sixty-six days. Pat Massaroni reminded his players on just before tip-off on Thursday night it was that long since the last time they were in this exact position — same floor, same game and, fittingly, same opponent.
The Stepinac coach implored his players only final time that, as gut-wrenching as those 366 days were could all be erased over the the next 32 minutes.
Stepinac didn’t waste its opportunity at redemption on Thursday night. A year and a day after a heartbreaking and controversial loss to Archbishop Molloy in the CHSAA AA Semifinals at St. John’s University, the Crusaders found closure with an 88-84 victory in the playoff rematch.
“I’m so proud of the way our guys responded tonight,” Massaroni said. “We set a goal of getting to the city championship and these guys achieved it.”
Arguably the CHSAA’s best backcourt, senior Alan Griffin and sophomore R.J. Davis, combined for 64 points and carried the Crusaders to a ninth straight victory overall and a berth in Sunday’s CHSAA championship.
Stepinac (24-5) will take on Christ the King (23-5) in the city championship at Fordham University at 3 p.m. in search of its first CHSAA overall title since 1960. It’s potentially the biggest game in the program’s history.
If Griffin and Davis perform the way they did on Thursday night, the Crusaders could end this championship dought. Davis scored 33 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter, while Griffin had 20 of his 31 points in the first half.
Griffin, who had eight rebounds, hit 8 of 11 shots in the first half, including an off-balance 3-pointer over two defenders in the final seconds of the second quarter. Davis added four rebounds and four assists in the win.
Adrian Griffin, Alan’s freshman brother, scored 17 points with nine rebounds and Xavier Wilson grabbed 10 rebounds.
Georgia Tech commit Khalid Moore led Molloy with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists. Cole Anthony, a prized junior, scored 26 with 10 rebound and four assists, and Moses Brown, a 7-foot-2 center committed to UCLA, scored 23 points and grabbed 11 boards.
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