Stepinac High School (8-4 overall, 5-1 CHSAA AA) has had a tough time on the basketball court since losing star junior guard Adrian Griffin, Jr. On Jan. 3, Griffin sustained a sprained left knee during the “Crusader Classic” against Iona Prep, at the Westchester County Center. The 6’ 7” Duke University commit will be sidelined for two-three weeks.
Stepinac still persevered against their arch rival Iona, 62-54, in the Third Annual “Crusaders Classic” and then went on to beat St. Peter’s, 66-52, without Griffin, on Jan. 7. However, the Crusaders were run over by St. Raymond High School, 93-68, on their home court, on Friday, Jan. 10.
On Friday, the St. Raymond contest was a rematch of a game earlier this season, which the Crusaders won, 100-93 in overtime in the PSA Cardinal Prep Showcase, at Mount St. Michael Academy on Dec. 15. The difference in the two games was quite evident, as the Crusaders were no match for the running and highflying Ravens in the rematch without Griffin.
On Friday, Stepinac guard R. J. Davis came into the game chasing a milestone. The University of North Carolina commit was 54 points away from becoming the Westchester County High School Basketball All-Time Leading Scorer.
Nonetheless, Davis struggled in the game as did the Crusaders. Davis scored only two points in the first quarter but did come alive in the second frame while scoring 13 points. However, the Crusaders still huddled at halftime losing by 15 points, 45-30, behind 18 first-half points by Ravens senior guard Luis Kortright.
By the end of the third quarter Davis had scored 23 points but that was as close to achieving the milestone as he would get in this game. The Crusaders star guard did not score in the fourth quarter. St. Raymond certainly appeared to be the better team while comparing the Griffin-less Crusaders. The Ravens went on to defeat the Crusaders, 93-68, with Kortright finishing with 33 points.
“A.J. Griffin is such a good player and he is definitely part of the one-two punch with R. J. Davis. Not having him in the game was a difference and we capitalized off of his absence,” commented Ravens Head Coach Jorge Lopez.
On Sunday, with only one day of rest, the Crusaders traveled to the Bronx to challenge Rutgers Preparatory School in the Empire Invitational at Mount St. Michael. Davis still seeking to cement his name on top of the Westchester County basketball record books was now 31 points shy of being crowned the County’s All-Time High School Leading Scorer.
Once again without the “Big Man” assisting the cause, Davis and Stepinac struggled in the first half. Davis scored only nine points and the Crusaders were losing to Rutgers, 38-24, at halftime.
But Davis fought hard while scoring 23 points in the second half. With the help of senior guard Luke Fizulich who netted 17 points and the rebounding of junior forward Malcolm Chimezie who grabbed 11 bounds; the Crusaders closed the gap to within seven points, 72-65 with 1:53 left in the game. But Argonauts proved too strong for the Griffin-less Crusaders and pulled away for the win, 81-68.
Nonetheless, Davis and the Crusaders would have their one shining moment in the game. With 1:01 remaining, Stepinac’s star guard approached the foul line for two shots. Davis converted the first free throw, which gave him 2,120 career-points and made him Westchester County’s All-Time High School Scoring Leader.
Davis also made the second free throw, which game him 32 points in the game, including 15-of-15 from the foul line and 2,121 career-points. Davis, a Greenburgh resident, surpassed another Greenburgh basketball legend Danya Abrams formerly of Woodlands/Hackley, who previously held the crown for 27 years with 2,119 career-points.
“It is great honor to break the record. It is a great individual achievement but obviously we did not get the win and that was the main thing. But I am definitely honored and grateful for the record,” stated Davis.
Massaroni, who coached Davis his entire high school career acknowledged. “I am super proud of R.J.’s accomplishments as an individual. But I think his biggest achievement for us is that he is a winner. I know there is not much to celebrate after a loss but I am proud of him as an individual and how hard he has worked,” said Massaroni.