Xaverian is back in the championship mix — even after a major roster overhaul.
The Clippers aren’t among our “favorites” to make the title game in what is shaping up to be a wide-open league, but the team has proven it is capable of making a run. Xaverian already owns wins over three-time defending champion Christ the King and Cardinal Hayes, and it avenged a loss to Holy Cross on Sunday. The team isn’t getting the credit it deserves, a player said.
“I felt we were always up there, but people were always sleeping on us,” senior forward Nyontay Wisseh said. “But that’s alright.”
Xaverian even had Brooklyn-Queens division leader Archbishop Molloy on the ropes recently, but it didn’t make enough plays down the stretch and eventually lost 56–50 at home on Jan. 27. Star Nyontay Wisseh scored 21 points, but leading-scorer Zach Bruno’s poor shooting limited him to just six points
“We just have to play together,” Wisseh said. “Everyone is capable of scoring 20 points a game. We just have to make sure we distribute the ball properly.”
Xaverian learned from the defeat — and a loss to division power Bishop Loughlin — that there will be obstacles on the return trip to the title game. The Clippers squad, which doesn’t have the size it had a year ago, has struggled against the league’s biggest teams.
Players attacked the basket with less confidence and certainty in the first half on Sunday, but they adjusted after the break. It negated Xaverian’s transition offense, which has been one of its biggest strengths all year.
“We just didn’t convert in transition, and I think that was the key to the game,” Clippers coach Jack Alesi said.
Scoring on the fast break will be the key to counteracting opponents’ height advantage as the team moves into February and March and games become even more meaningful.
“We are not a big team,” Alesi said. “We know that. It’s an issue, but I think we are prepared for it.”
Xaverian’s shooting and speed with Wisseh, Bruno, Khalil Rhodes, and Brandon Leftwich is good enough to compete with anyone. The league has as much parity as it had in recent years — every team but Loughlin has more than one division loss. Alesi doesn’t want to look too far ahead, but knows there is an opportunity for a run.
“There is nobody you can say this year is a clear-cut, No. 1 team,” he said. “I know it’s not us, and I know we are looking up at some of the good teams. Three weeks at the end of the season and it’s an eternity.”
Xaverian is certainly capable of another deep playoff run — and may have a chance to play for the crown.