Xaverian extends winning streak to 9 with win over St. Mary’s
The Xaverian Clippers beat St. Mary’s 65-58 in Bay Ridge on Sunday night to extend their winning streak to nine games. The impressive run was news to head coach Jack Alesi, who is so locked into his two-year plan that he isn’t worried about wins so early in January.
“I wasn’t even aware we had a nine-game winning streak,” Alesi said. “I take them game by game, and at this time of the year, as a coach, I’m not counting wins as much as I’m monitoring progression. A nine-game winning streak only matters if you are getting better every game.”
Alesi knew his team would have a tough time winning last season, and with just one senior on the team, he expected to have nearly his entire squad back this year. So rather than try in vain to win with an inexperienced team, he went to work on a two-year plan that would have his team ready to win this season.
So far the move paid off as Xaverian is 11-2 overall and is riding a nine-game winning streak that includes victories over tough opponents like Christ the King, Iona Prep and Bishop Loughlin.
“Last year was tough, but we were a really young team,” said senior guard Doyin Isaac. “Coach was telling us that it was part of a project. We weren’t really trying to win last year. We knew that we were working for this because we only had two people leave the team last year. It was an 18 month program and now we’re good.”
Xaverian showed off its “ground-and-pound” game, as Alesi calls it, on Sunday against St. Mary’s. Big men Sayon Charles and Najee Larcher controlled the game down low, and when St. Mary’s was forced to double-teamed them, they kicked the ball out to Doyin Isaac and the other guards.
“Today, I thought we played as well as we have in a month,” Alesi said. “Defensively, we were a little out of sync, but offensively our approach and our ball movement looked very good. If we hit more free throws, then this could have been a much more comfortable win.”
Xaverian trailed for most of the first half, but with solid defense they managed to keep the game close and trailed by just four points, 27-23, at halftime. Sophomore Zack Bruno tied it at 29-29 two minutes into the second half, and senior Bard Featherston hit a three to go up 32-29. The Clippers did not trail again after that.
St. Mary’s wouldn’t go quietly, though. Charles hit a couple of free throws to put Xaverian up by 10 midway through the fourth quarter. Shortly after, Chris Kelly of St. Mary’s hit a pair of three pointers to cut what seemed like a comfortable lead down to three with 1:56 to play. Despite a suddenly disappearing lead, Xaverian managed to keep its composure down the stretch.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now so it was easy for us to stay calm in the fourth quarter,” Charles explained. “They got two quick ones, but we’re a mature team that plays well together. We knew that our defense could hold them just enough to let our offense get us the win.”
In the final two minutes, Xaverian got a key layup from Larcher and then, after struggling from the free throw line all game, the Clippers hit seven of their last eight attempts from the line to clinch the victory.
After the game, Alesi said he was happy with the improvement that the team has made during its winning streak. He added that he was especially happy to see some of the underclassmen — Bruno, Jordan Guzman and Brandon Leftwich — play so well after a couple of their teammates were forced to miss the game with the flu. Bruno, in particular, hit two big shots down the stretch.
“I knew last year that the finish line was this March,” Alesi said. “So we structured everything we did for this season. Now we have experienced seniors who are playing really well, Doyin is probably a top three guard in the league right now, and I’m very encouraged to see the young kids contributing the way they have.”
As proud as he is at this point, Alesi is certainly not ready to accept any accolades just yet. Xaverian still has 11 games left to play, and his two-year plan will be for nothing if it doesn’t compete in a city championship.
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