Clippers play through ‘pain’

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Jack Alesi knew basketball purists would cringe when Xaverian traveled to Fresh Meadows to meet St. Francis Prep Friday night.

“Root canal could be more pleasant,” the Xaverian basketball coach said. “It’s the way we play and the way Prep plays.”

Take away the Novocain and that’s how painful it was to watch the Clippers’ 49-27 victory over the Terriers.

But it’s a league win, which for both teams has been difficult to come by. And a CHSAA Class AA victory on the road is cause for celebration, even if the road to get to the result was filled with potholes.

“There’s not a 22-point difference between Xaverian and Prep. They’re going to get a win somewhere along the way here and we’re just glad to get a win,” Alesi said. “Even more importantly than winning the game at this time of the year, it’s about getting better. I get upset with the losses, but big picture is just getting better.”

Alesi said the same thing after a three-point loss at St. Raymond’s last month. But Xaverian (6-9, 2-5 Brooklyn/Queens) lost four of the next five games and took a step backward, according to the longtime Clippers coach.

“I thought we regressed a little bit the last couple of games in terms of the way we’re playing,” Alesi said. “The last few games we got all out of sync and made too many individual plays. Today I thought we played with a lot of purpose.”

Xaverian senior guard Rasheem King scored a game-high 12 points and junior guard Chris Bonaventura added 10 for Xaverian, which jumped in front, 9-0, and never trailed. The Clippers haven’t exactly looked like a team prepping for a long playoff run, but based on the parity, and arguably the mediocrity of the ‘AA’ this season, King has reason to be optimistic about his team’s chances.

“We’ll take the win because right now we’re struggling,” the senior from Starret City said. “This is only our second league win, but we’re just trying to get our team ready for the playoffs. How the league is shaped this year I think we have a shot against anybody.”

The same can’t be said about St. Francis Prep, at least when the Terriers give the type of effort displayed on Friday night. Despite enduring a miserable seven-game losing streak, St. Francis Prep (7-11, 0-8) at least played hard and had a chance to win in the second half of several games.

That wasn’t the case Friday night. The Terriers showed no emotion and seemingly sleepwalked through what might have been their best shot at a league win this season.

What made that type of effort even more stunning was that it came on a night when former Prep basketball player John Downing, a firefighter who died in the Father’s Day fire of 2001, was having his No. 34 jersey retired in an emotional halftime ceremony.

“He was a skinny, smiling kid who was a tough kid, who was taking charges and guarding guys 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8,” St. Francis Prep coach Tim Leary said of the 6-foot-4 Downing. “The world has changed, the kids don’t have the same priorities and they’re a little softer for a variety of reasons.”

Updated 3:32 pm, October 19, 2011
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