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Yes Wi Can: Wisseh wills gritty Xaverian back to Catholic title game

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He’s a real whiz.

The final buzzer sounded and Nyontay Wisseh’s teammates mobbed him against a padded wall under the basket — one big ‘thank you’ hug after the senior’s heroics pushed Xaverian over the top in a thrilling 57–55 win over Archbishop Molloy in the Catholic Class AA boys’ basketball semifinals at Carnesecca Arena on March 9.

“He is our team leader,” guard Brandon Leftwich said.

Wisseh scored all 16 of his points in the second half to help his team rally from five points down late in the fourth quarter. The Stanners had won three previous meetings with Molloy, including in the diocesan semifinals.

“I just stay calm and basically pick it up when my team needed it,” Wisseh said. “We were still in a close game. I just tried to pick it up even more for us to get the win.”

He made two free throws with 13 seconds left to tie the score at 55–55 with help from a Moses Brown goal-tend. Xaverian trapped Cole Anthony on the ensuing in-bound play. Wisseh, who frustrated Molloy defensively in the first half, picked off a cross-court pass and drew a foul.

“I usually intercept passes on defense, its part of my game,” Wisseh said. “It was just and easy read.”

He sunk both free throws with 8.6 ticks remaining to give the Clippers a 57–55 lead — the team’s first since the second quarter. Xaverian (17–11) defended the final seconds perfectly, forcing the ball out of Anthony’s hands to Stanners center Moses Brown behind the three-point line. His shot hit the side of backboard before the horn sounded to send the Clippers back to the final for the second-straight year.

“They are just tough kids. Tough plays,” Xaverian coach Jack Alesi said. “Nothing beautiful out there, just tough plays.”

Leftwich scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, and Zack Bruno chipped in 13 points. Isaac Grant paced Molloy (22–6) with 17 points, and Brown had 16. Khalid Moore added 14 points.

Xaverian struggled to contain Molloy’s Brown and Grant in the paint in the first half — and the two combined for 19 of the team’s 29 points. The Clippers, who trailed 29–25 at the break, turned up the pressure on the Stanners guards in the second half, thus limiting the duo’s touches. The team overcame its lack of a true post to match up with sheer grit.

“I’m 6-1, and I’m playing the five,” Leftwich said. “I’m guarding Moses. He’s 7-foot. We don’t really don’t care. The bigger you are the harder you fall.”

The Clippers will need to take that mentality into Sunday’s final against Bishop Loughlin at Fordham University at 3:30 pm. The Lions are the league’s deepest team. Its the reigning diocesan champion and already owns two wins over the Clippers. Still, a second-straight empty trip to the final is not an option.

“We want a championsh­ip,” Leftwich said. “We have been there two times in a row. We need a championsh­ip.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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