At the start of the basketball season, All Hallows was an afterthought. The preseason favorites were Rice and Christ the King, with Bishop Loughlin a close third.
But the Gaels? With their two best players transferring – Devon Collier to St. Anthony’s (N.J.) and Shane Southwell to Rice – following a 3-24 season, another long, disappointing year was expected.
And yet, All Hallows is one of the final four teams left in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional tournament after upsetting Xaverian, 45-38, in a quarterfinal game played at Christ the King Friday night.
“Right now we’re the underdog in New York because of the seasons we’ve had in the past and this season has been up and down,” junior forward Omar Kellman said. “But right now, its on a positive note and we’re just going to keep going.”
All Hallows (11-11) looked nothing like a team poised to make a long run in the playoffs at the start of the season The Gaels opened with a 72-56 loss to Mount St. Michael and lopsided defeats to Bishop Loughlin, Mount Vernon and Christ the King followed.
The 14-man roster at the start of the season had been trimmed to seven for a variety of reasons and Gaels coach John Carey had to pluck three players off the junior varsity team just to fill out the bench. Even Kellman missed five games because of what Carey called a “disciplinary situation.”
“It’s just an evolving thing,” Carey said of his roster.
The season changed for the Gaels in a come-from-behind, double-overtime win at St. Raymond’s on Feb. 13.
All Hallows lost its next two, including a rematch with the Ravens in the Archdiocesan semifinals, the Gaels believed they turned a corner, having won three straight games.
“That’s what really boosted our confidence high,” said junior guard Michael Alvarado, who scored a game-high 13 points.
Although the execution was lacking for much of the game, that confidence was evident on Friday night against a Xaverian team that had beaten both Rice and Christ the King this season.
The Clippers scored the first six points of the third quarter and took a 25-16 lead on a Rasheem King layup. Xaverian (14-14) had its largest lead, 29-19, with 2:22 remaining in the third when All Hallows went on a 10-1 run sparked by a pair of 3-pointers by Jairo Moquette to take a 31-30 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Kellman (12 points) came up huge down the stretch for the Gaels. His two free throws gave his team a 39-38 lead with 2:18 remaining and, following a shot-clock violation by Xaverian, the forward scored from the post with 1:15 left. Kellman then grabbed a big rebound after a missed Justin Exum 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining to help seal the stunning victory.
The Gaels will meet Rice in the first semifinal Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena. The Raiders crushed Archbishop Molloy, 96-64, in the second quarterfinal Friday night. Once again, Rice is a heavy favorite. But that’s just fine with Alvarado.
“We’re the underdogs,” the Manhattan College-bound guard said. “That gave us more confidence. We were the underdog; we still are the underdog, I feel. We’re just going to continue to work hard.”