After being postponed for 24 hours due to the storm, the CHSAA semifinals are on for Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena. Cardinal Hayes will face Christ the King at 6:00, while Archbishop Molloy and Archbishop Stepinac will tip at 8:00.
The program is the same as last year's CHSAA semifinals, including the venue, except that Hayes faces CTK in the opener instead of Loughlin.
Each of the four teams boasts exceptional offensive talent, so defensive stops will go a long way in determining who advances to the final at Fordham University on Sunday.
Cardinal Hayes vs. Christ the King
Cardinal Hayes has explosive offensive threats around the perimeter. Joe Toussaint, Jontai Williams and Tyrese Williams are all capable of putting points on the board in a hurry from behind the arc. The trio combined for ten 3-pointers in Sunday's 82-71 quarterfinal win over Bishop Loughlin, going a combined 10-19, a sizzling 52.6%.
Christ the King's offensive attack has more balance. While Tyson Walker and Ryan Myers give the Royals point production from the perimeter, CTK also gets muscle points in the post from Kofi Cockburn.
Moussa Cisse, a freshman with an impressive basketball IQ, is also a threat for the Royals in the paint.
Walker had a game-high 22 points in Sunday's 59-55 win over St. Peter's, with Myers and Cockburn netting 11 and 16, respectively.
Cardinal Hayes gave up 71 points to Loughlin on Sunday, with the Lions shooting 45.1% from the field and 38.1% from 3-point range.
Christ the King, on the other hand, held St. Peter's to 55 points on 39.7% shooting and a stingy 21.1% from beyond the arc. The Royals also blocked seven shots, five by Cisse.
Another significant disparity in the defensive performance of CTK and Hayes on Sunday related to fouls. The Cardinals committed 19 personals that resulted in 25 free throw attempts for Loughlin, while the Royals committed just 10 personals, yielding just 5 chances for St. Peter's at the stripe.
Xs and Os
Hayes and CTK met in the CHSAA opener in the Bronx back on December 1st, with the Cardinals notching an impressive 84-64 win. Not only did Hayes shoot the proverbial lights out in that game, but the Cardinals did a masterful job at keeping Cockburn and Cisse away from the rim. If Hayes is able to repeat these tasks on Thursday, they stand a good chance of advancing to the final at Rose Hill on Sunday.
Cardinal Hayes topped CTK 84-64 in the @CHSAA_NYC league opener on December 1st. The Royals have gone 16-1 against CHSAA league opponents since, while Hayes has gone 16-4. Hayes and CTK will meet again in the CHSAA semifinals at Carnesecca Arena on Wed.https://t.co/nfjcp0kF1F— HS Box Scores NYC (@hsboxscoresnyc) March 6, 2018
On the other hand, if Christ the King defends the perimeter the way it did against St. Peter's in the quarterfinals, that could prove to be the difference. Although Toussaint's dribble penetration often results in kick outs for clean perimeter looks, the Royals have rim protectors in Cockburn and Cisse, giving them the luxury of sacrificing weak side help to guard the arc.
Archbishop Molloy vs. Archbishop Stepinac
Molloy gets offense from Cole Anthony on the perimeter, Moses Brown in the paint and Khalid Moore from the wing position, with the big three combining for 51 of the Stanners' 68 points in Sunday's win over Iona Prep. Although depth has been somewhat of an achilles heel for Molloy this season, the Stanners filled that gap in the quarterfinals, getting 15 bench points from Deonte Benejan (8) and Elijah Blackman (7).
Khalid Moore was clutch for Molloy. Things looked dicey for the Stanners when Cole Anthony fouled out and Iona Prep cut it to 56-53, but this basket by Moore was a huge answer. Moore finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. @Molloyhs #HSBB pic.twitter.com/MZK4kgUrs4— HS Box Scores NYC (@hsboxscoresnyc) March 4, 2018
While Anthony (23.5 ppg) and Brown (21.2 ppg) were the top two scorers in the CHSAA this season, R.J. Davis (20.3 ppg) and Alan Griffin (18.3 ppg) finished 3rd and 5th, respectively. On top of that, the Crusaders get meaningful offensive punch from freshman Adrian Griffin Jr., who scored 14 points in Stepinac's 83-68 win over St. Raymond on Sunday, and Joel Soriano, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
On defense, Stepinac is giving up 58.5 points per game during the postseason while Molloy is yielding 57.7 per contest, a differential of less than one point.
Xs and Os
This is a rematch of last year's nailbiting semifinal that ended with Moore sealing Molloy's 70-69 win with a free throw after he recovered a loose ball and was fouled by Xavier Wilson with 0.6 seconds left.
More recently, the Crusaders topped Molloy 89-76 in White Plains just over a month ago, with Stepinac outscoring the Stanners 26-15 in the final quarter.
The games within the game will be intriguing, to say the least. Cole Anthony versus R.J. Davis at the point, Moses Brown versus Joel Soriano in the post and Khalid Moore versus Alan Griffin on the wing.
Foul trouble is always a wildcard, but it could be particularly perilous for Molloy if it affects Anthony, Brown or Moore. The Stanners struggled after Anthony fouled out on Sunday before Moore came to the rescue, and having to guard the likes of Davis, Soriano and Griffin, even within the framework of a zone, could exacerbate this risk.
Stepinac has a more experienced supporting cast with Xavier Wilson and Adrian Griffin Jr, but Molloy could overcome this if Benejan and Blackman give the Stanners quality minutes like they did on Sunday.