Gary Acquah is making a habit of winning games, no matter what the sport.
The two-way football standout had two sacks and two touchdowns to lead Mount St. Michael to a Thanksgiving Day win against rival Cardinal Hayes, guiding the Mountaineers to the CHSFL Class AA title.
Six days later, Acquah stepped up big for the Mount basketball team in a season-opening 66-60 win over Salesian Wednesday afternoon in The Bronx.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Acquah had 14 points and six boards, none bigger than an offensive rebound off a missed free throw with 20.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter to seal the Mountaineers win.
And to think, Acquah has practiced exactly 30 minutes on the court this season.
“That was a terrific, terrific rebound,” Mount coach Tom Fraher said. “I wish I could get 20 and 10 out of him every night, but 14 and 6 pretty much on the fly, you have to take it.”
While Acquah played his final football game for Mount, there’s still the CHSFL Senior Bowl game to be played Sunday. He’s been attending football practices every day at Fordham University — every day but Wednesday.
“I feel like the basketball season just crept up on me,” Acquah said. “It came real fast. I took a day off from the Senior Bowl practice to play with my team because they were kind of shorthanded. It’s tough going from the field to the hardwood.”
Acquah’s plan Wednesday was to “run up and down the court with the team.” But Acquah did so much more. Despite just 30 minutes to prepare on Tuesday, a “cram course,” as Fraher called it, Acquah was huge for the undermanned Mountaineers.
“It’s been haphazard, it’s been tough,” Fraher said. “We’ve had eight scrimmages with seven guys. We’ll get better. We have another week to get better for All Hallows.”
Acquah wasn’t the only football player who came up big on the hardwood Wednesday. Randy Samuels was huge on the defensive end, limiting Salesian’s Kevin Punter (15 points) to one second-half field goal.
“He may have thought that, but we knew [Salesian] was pretty athletic and we knew we’d need the football guys,” Fraher said. “We don’t win the game without Randy and Gary because we wouldn’t have been able to body up with them.”
Led by Jason Alleyne, who scored a game-high 20 points, Salesian rallied from a 15-point deficit early in the third quarter to get within 52-51 on a steal and dunk by Mike Cacciato (10 points) with 5:08 left in the fourth quarter.
But sophomore point guard Malik Gill, a transfer from New Rochelle, responded with a huge steal and layup and Samuels did the same. A floater by Pete Aguilar extended Mount’s lead to 58-51 with 3:15 left in the fourth.
Aguilar struggled despite scoring a team-high 16 points, but he hit an important 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter.
The Eagles got within three again, but Acquah scored four points and grabbed one massive offensive rebound in the final 1:17 to seal the win.