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Winning a mater of style for Xaverian

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Xaverian’s new roster is bringing a new way to play.

The Clippers boys’ basketball team reached the Brooklyn-Queens and Catholic Intersectional Class AA finals last year by pounding the ball into forwards Najee Larcher and Sayon Charles. But the team lost its muscle with the graduation of Larcher, Charles, and point guard Doyin Isaac — forcing this year’s squad to play to its strengths and focus on quickness and athleticism.

“We are a polar opposite to the way we played last year,” Clippers coach Jack Alesi said. “Last year we were ‘ground and pound’ — get the ball inside. This year, we are more like a ‘chuck and duck’ — let’s move the ball, get spacing and ball movement.”

He got a good look at how effective that new play style can be during the second half of his squad’s 58–41 road victory over Archbishop Stepinac on Dec. 12.

Xaverian (3–0) jumped the passing lane, got out in transition, and forced turnovers to put the game away in the fourth quarter. The Clippers held the Crusaders (1–3) scoreless for the final 6:12 of the game and closed the contest on a 19–0 run. It was an impressive display in its first league game of the year.

“It’s a great win,” said junior guard Zack Bruno, who scored 15 points. “The best wins are wins on the road — especially on Saturday night with a big crowd.”

It took Xaverian half the game to sharpen its execution on both sides of the court.

The team had been trying all along to execute like it did after the break, but it took time for them to get in sync.

“We did it later on, because we made adjustments, and we just looked better,” Alesi said. “It’s not like we weren’t trying to do it.”

And senior Nyontay Wisseh — the lone returning starter — imposed his will on the contest. He and Bruno led a 9–0 run in the third that gave Xaverian its first lead. Wisseh scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and converted a baseline layup to put his club up 37–21 with 50 seconds to play in the third.

“I’m able to pick it up when I need too,” said Wisseh, a three-year varsity player.

Six straight points from Jordan Means put Stepinac ahead 41–39, but it would not score again. Xaverian forced five turnovers, and Wisseh, Bruno, and senior guard Brandon Leftwich (12 points) got easy points in transition. Point guard Khalil Rhodes and Jordan Guzman (eight points) were excellent on the defensive end.

Aundre Hyatt paced the Crusaders with 16 points.

Xaverian, which dropped a 70–59 decision to Christ the King the next day, is trying to surprise people after losing four starters from a year ago. Much of the buzz around the league is about Christ the King, St. Raymond, and Archbishop Molloy, but The Clippers players think they can force their way into the conversation.

“Last year they forgot about us, this year it is the same story,” Wisseh said. “We will be ready.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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