Malik Gill has often been accused of only playing in one speed – lightning quick – by Mount St. Michael coach Tom Fraher, but the senior point guard said the same is true of his illustrious high school career.
“I’ve been here for three years and it’s been a great ride,” said Gill, who transferred from New Rochelle as a freshman. “It’s crazy it happened so quickly.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Gill and his fellow seniors were honored at halftime for playing their final regular season home game. It turned out to be one of Gill’s greatest performances as he helped lead The Mount to a 58-50 win against rival Archbishop Stepinac.
“When he plays like this, I don’t think there’s a better point guard in the CHSAA,” Fraher said. “[Dillon] Burns out of Xaverian is a better shooter, [Anthony Libroia] from Holy Cross is a better shooter, but Gill can get into the lane and create havoc.”
Mount (18-6), which closed out the regular season with three straight wins following a trio of losses, earns the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Archdiocesan tournament.
“If you would have told me back on Nov. 1 we’d be 18-6, I would have said where’s the contract,” Fraher said. “To be here at 18-6, to be the No. 3 seed, these guys have accomplished a lot.”
The opening two rounds are at St. Raymond, but the final is Feb. 25 back at Mount. There’s a chance for Gill and his fellow seniors to have a swan song with a tournament title on the line.
“I would love to get back on this court again,” senior forward Omari Manhertz said. “I know we can do this.”
Gill, who is being recruited by American and Dartmouth, played arguably his most complete game of the season. He still used his speed to blow by defenders for layups or to get open to knock down an open jumper, but Gill also switched gears when needed and used his terrific vision to find shooters on the wings or Manhertz inside.
“I thought it was one of Gill’s best games of the year,” Fraher said. “I thought he distributed it well. He’s so dangerous when he gets in the lane and he can draw it and kick.”
Gill finished with a game-high 16 points, Ed Correa added 13, Anthony Maestre had 11 and Manhertz followed with eight, including a pair of thunderous dunks – one on a putback – that whipped the crowd into a frenzy and provided an emotional spark to his teammates.
“When he does those crazy dunks and those crazy blocks, the whole team’s momentum picks up,” Gill said. “As soon as he does that, we start rolling. We depend on that.”
After falling behind early, Mount had a five-point lead at halftime, but Stepinac (10-14) opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run capped by a Tyler Iacuone layup.
However, the Mountaineers took control of the game late in the third quarter on the strength of three of their nine 3-pointers. Maestre provided the dagger, beating the buzzer to put Mount, ranked No. 11 in New York City by MSG Varsity, in front, 46-38, heading into the fourth.
“Our game is making shots,” Fraher said. “We wont have a lot of room to do a lot of anything else in terms of rebounding because we’re so small outside of Manhertz. If we make shots, we’re tough to beat.”
Mount will actually play Stepinac again in the Archdiocesan quarterfinals Sunday at St. Raymond. Davino McRae had 12 points, Josh and Iacuone had 11 apiece and Naim Thomas added 10 for the Crusaders, who head into the postseason on a six-game losing streak.
Top-seeded Cardinal Hayes faces No. 8 Fordham Prep, second-seeded St. Peter’s takes on No. 7 Monsignor Farrell and fourth-seeded St. Raymond battles No. 5 All Hallows in the other quarterfinals Sunday.
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