RJ Davis, Alan Griffin and Adrian Griffin Jr combined for 81 of Archbishop Stepinac's 88 points, as the Crusaders topped Queens powerhouse Archbishop Molloy 88-84 in a nailbiting CHSAA semifinal thriller at Carnesecca Arena on Thursday night.
In a game oozing with talent, Khalid Moore, Cole Anthony and Moses Brown combined for 76 of Molloy's 84 points, but the Stanners still fell short, as Stepinac's offensive execution, defense and free throw shooting in the final minutes proved to be the difference.
In addition to earning a berth into the CHSAA AA final at Fordham University on Sunday, Stepinac avenged a one-point loss suffered at the hands of Molloy in last year's semifinal on the same court, with the final point coming on a Khalid Moore free throw with 0.6 seconds left.
Alan Griffin carried Stepinac on offense throughout the first half, putting up 20 points during the first 16 minutes.
After both teams went punch-for-punch from the opening tip, the Stanners gained some breathing room when Moore's 3-point play put Molloy ahead 38-33, but Griffin answered for Stepinac with a contested 3-pointer right before the half, making it a two point game at 38-36.
Moore's steal and dunk gave the Stanners a six point lead at 48-42 with 5:30 left in the third, but Stepinac stunted the momentum with a timeout, rattling off five straight after the TO to pull within a point at 48-47 after a 3-point play by Griffin Jr.
Molloy went ahead by six again when Anthony's runner made it 53-47, but again the Crusaders cut the lead to a point, this time on two free throws by Davis, making it 55-54 with 2:20 left in the third.
Trailing 59-56, Stepinac evened the score at 59 after Griffin connected on a deep 3-pointer that might as well have been from the Grand Central Parkway, and the Crusaders took a 61-60 lead into the final frame after another pair of freebies from Davis.
Stepinac opened the fourth with back-to-back buckets by Davis to take a 65-60 lead, but despite Brown picking up his fourth personal with 6:40 left, Molloy would regroup after a timeout, tying the score at 66 on a pair of Moore free throws.
Stepinac stretched the lead to 78-73 on a 3-pointer by Davis with just over 2:00 left, but Moore's 3-point play on a putback made it a one point game at 82-81 with just 22.3 ticks left.
After another pair of Davis free throws, Molloy took possession with a chance to tie the game on a 3-pointer, trailing 84-81. The Stanners opted for a timeout just as Anthony looked prepared to launch a three with 17.3 seconds left, but Stepinac came out prepared defensively, face guarding Anthony and denying him the ball while still managing to get a hand up on Moore's missed 3-pointer. The Stanners were forced to foul the rebounder, and Davis was back on the stripe again.
The Crusaders went ahead 86-81 after Davis made the pair, but Anthony banked in a long 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left, giving Molloy life trailing 86-84. Davis was fouled once again, and he iced the game by making both, giving Stepinac the 88-84 win.
Davis finished with a game-high 33 points, 15 from the stripe, with Griffin scoring 31 points and Griffin Jr 17 for Stepinac.
Moore led Molloy with 27 points, while Anthony had 26 points and 10 rebounds and Brown 23 and 11 for the Stanners.
The Crusaders will face Christ the King in the CHSAA final at Fordham University at 3:00 on Sunday. The Royals topped Cardinal Hayes 72-64 in the other CHSAA semifinal on Thursday night.