Canisius became only the second school of this century to win back-to-back Class A state Catholic titles after a 44-41 nail-biting victory over Monsignor Farrell (22-6) from Staten Island at Villa Maria College on Sunday afternoon.
Junior Colby Moultrie scored his only two points of the game on free throws with 32.9 seconds on the clock to give the Crusaders a 42-41 lead, and senior Stafford Trueheart put on the finishing touches with two more with 1.5 left to seal the win.
“I told Colby, ‘You must’ve been nervous because I was nervous,’ ” Canisius coach Kyle Husband said. “But I’ve got confidence in all of them, especially him. He’s one of our best shooters. He just doesn’t get tons of opportunities. He stepped to the line and knocked them down.”
It was clear from the start that Canisius’ main priority on defense was to contain Farrell’s leading scorer, Nicholas Corbett. Moultrie, along with sophomore Jayce Johnson and senior Andrew Schake, formed what Husband dubbed his “three-headed monster” that limited the senior guard to only seven points, 13 below his season average.
“The three of them did a phenomenal job,” Husband said. “He got two whistles early, but they dug in, played hard and limited his touches and easy opportunities. I don’t know if he had any easy opportunities today.”
Trueheart finished with a game-high 18 points while senior Justin Jones had 10 points and 10 rebounds to give the Crusaders their 26th win of the season, a school record.
Trueheart and Jones were especially vital down the stretch. They accounted for six of their team’s eight fourth-quarter points and helped hold the Eagles to just four points during the final eight minutes.
“We were tough defensively again, the fourth quarter especially,” Husband said. “We didn’t make free throws all game, but then when it mattered we knocked them down. Those points were huge.”
Canisius (26-2) will play New York State Association of Independent Schools champion Albany Academy (16-4) on Friday at the Times Union Center in Albany at 11 a.m. It’s a rematch of last year’s Class A Federation final, which the Crusaders won, 48-44.
“They’ve got one kid who’s terrific and a bunch of other really tough guys,” Husband said. “This time of year, whoever’s got a little bit more focus, a little more energy and makes more plays – I mean, it sounds simple, but it’s the truth of the matter.”
Three first-quarter dunks, one by Madut Ayiy (10 rebounds) and two by Trueheart, set the tone early for the Crusaders, who opened up a 13-8 lead before the Lions went on an 8-2 run that was capped off in the last minute by Corbett’s first field goal. Johnson scored on the ensuing possession at the buzzer to put Canisius up, 17-16.
Canisius’ largest lead of the game came at the 3:53 mark of the second quarter on a Will Atkinson bucket that put the Crusaders up, 27-20. Corbett hit his only three-pointer a minute later and two points by Trueheart closed the first half at 29-23.
After an Atkinson basket made the score 32-27 1:30 into the third quarter, Farrell went on an 8-0 run over the next five minutes to take a 37-32 lead. Jones ended Canisius’ dry spell on a layup with 55 seconds left in the quarter.
That next defensive sequence saw Charles Hart (six blocks) and Truehart combine to block three Lions shots from in close. Trueheart then ended the quarter with a fade-away jumper as time expired that brought the Crusaders to within one, 37-36.
The final eight minutes were all about Canisius converting from the free-throw line, which is where all eight of its points came from. Trueheart went 4-4, Jones 2-2 and Moultrie 2-2 to reclaim the lead for Canisius three separate times.
Trueheart’s first two free throws with 4:51 to go were the first points of the fourth quarter. Farrell took the lead back at the 2:12 mark but Jones responded. A putback then gave the Lions their final lead, 41-40, at the 1:31 mark.