Nyontay Wisseh finally did he was told and couldn’t have picked a better time.
The Xaverian coaching staff was pleading with the junior late in the fourth quarter to try for a steal at the top of the key. Wisseh kept waiting for the right moment to take make a go at it.
“Others times I had a chance, but I wasn’t too sure,” he said. “This time I was positive.”
Wisseh poked the ball free from Cardinal Hayes’s Baron Goodridge from behind during a handoff to Clive Allen. He collected the ball and went coast to coast for a three-point play that put Xaverian up four with 30 seconds left in the game.
The Clippers never looked back from there and made free throws down the stretch to close a 56–54 victory over Cardinal Hayes in the Catholic Intersectional Class AA boys’ basketball quarterfinals at Fordham University on March 8. The Clippers squad will play in its first semifinal since 2005 when it faces Archdiocesan champion Iona Prep at 6 pm on March 10 back at Fordham.
“I just read the play easily,” Wisseh said. “I saw the little dribble hand off, so I hit the ball from behind and it hit off his teammate, and I was able to get the steal.”
Xaverian was in position to win late thanks to another one of its less-ballyhooed players. When Hayes led 43–39 with 4:44 to play in the game, the Clippers responded with an 8–1 run that included two huge three-pointers from Bard Featherson (13 points). His second trey put Xaverian ahead 47–44 at the 2:32 mark of the fourth. He just stayed loose, relaxed and confident like his coaches ask of him in big spots.
“When I was catching those balls I just thought to let my arms go and not aim, just let it fall out of my hand,” he said. “They felt good as soon as I released them.”
It wasn’t the first time in the game that Xaverian needed to come back. Hayes led by as many as 10 points late in the first quarter, but the Clippers rallied behind senior forward Sayon Charles. Xaverian (21–6), which had trailed just 27–26 at the half, used an 11–3 third-quarter run to take a 37–32 lead on two Charles free throws with 3:14 to go in the frame. Charles scored 12 points and grabbed nine boards. Doyin Isaac added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists or Xaverian.
“He’s a tough kid.“ Clippers coach Jack Alesi said of Charles. “He is the leader on this team.”
It was all part of Xaverian getting the best of Hayes in the paint. The Cardinals’ four-man front court combined for 11 points and 12 rebounds. Allen had 27 points and Goodridge added 13 for Hayes.
Xaverian goes into the semifinal with some confidence, having beat Iona 64–60 in December. Iona has stars in Division I commits Matt Ryan (Notre Dame) and Ty Jerome (Virginia). Xaverian knows Iona is likely looking forward to another matchup, and the Clippers feel the same way.
“We want to play them too,” Wisseh said. “We want to show we are at the top. We are ready for the matchup.”