There were too many positives for Tom Fraher to dwell on the lone negative.
The Mount St. Michael coach watched his team outmuscle and outhustle rival Cardinal Hayes for three quarters. He got to see the maturation of sophomore point guard Malik Gill, who scored 21 points and led the Mountaineers’ responses to Hayes runs. Randy Samuels helped limit Hayes star Nay-Quan Bloomer to a quiet 14 points, all this while Mount’s star Peter Aguilar struggled to score.
The Mountaineers though still had to sweat out the final minutes thanks to missed free throws and costly turnovers. They eventually held on for 71-67 win over host Hayes in the CHSAA A-North boys basketball clash Friday night.
“Anytime you come down here and win, it’s a good win,” Fraher said. “We played great for three quarters without Aguilar having a great game. You hold on for dear life, but who cares. We won the game.”
Aguilar fouled out with 2:02 left in the contest and Mount up 65-50. The Cardinals (7-3, 1-2) though turned up the heat with a trapping full court press and saw Mount (12-1, 5-0) miss four straight free throws at one point. Bloomer, Gabriel Carrion and Fadil Yacoubou got to the basket and the free throw line as Hayes pulled as close as 69-65 with 18 seconds left when Chantz Delgado sunk three straight free throws after being fouled behind the arc.
“We dug ourselves too big a hole,” Hayes coach Joe Lods said.
The Mountaineers used a 14-0 second-quarter run, their second double-digit spurt of the half, to build a 22-point lead late. Samuels, who scored 15 points, helped his team dominate the offensive glass with tip-ins and putbacks early in the quarter. Clarence White came off the bench and scored seven of Mount’s final 11 points in the half.
“Randy is a great hustler, a great defender,” Gill said. “He is the glue to our team. He does everything that we need him to do. He is the key to us winning all these games right now.”
Hayes rallied to get within 43-29 with 5:25 left in the third quarter. Yacoubou scored 15 points in what Lods called his best performance this season, but Gill had all the answers for Mount. He calmly hit a 3-pointer from the top of key and a few plays later found Samuels two straight times for a layup, the second after he stole the ball up top.
“For a sophomore, Malik has really really matured,” Samuels said. “He is going to make big plays for us.”
Added Lods: “He looked like the veteran guard out there tonight.”
And Mount was the veteran team against a young Hayes squad that featured five sophomores. Though the Mountaineers let the game get close down the stretch, they kept their composure and secured their 11th victory in a row after three stellar quarters.
“It’s shows how good of a team we are,” Gill said. “When our best scorer and our best player doesn’t score too many points that everyone steps up and we still get through and win the game.”
©2010 Community News Group