NFA boys edge Xavier 60-54 to complete perfect 20-0 regular season

Norwich — Nolan Molkenthin never doubted his shot was going in.

The Norwich Free Academy boys' basketball team had watched Xavier storm back in the second half to tie Monday night's game with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left. Alumni Gym was packed, loud and on the edge. The Wildcats' shot at an unbeaten regular season seemed in doubt.

Molkenthin, standing closer to his team's bench than the 3-point line, let a shot fly.

"I've just got that clutch gene, I feel, so I just pulled it," the senior said.

Molkenthin hit it, and NFA closed the game out for a 60-54 win and a 20-0 regular season.

"Me, Mason (Jackson), Xavier (Marquez), we've all been through (tough games) before," Molkenthin said. "We weren't losing.

"19-0 ... you can't lose."

Jackson had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Molkenthin scored 16 for the Wildcats. It was their first unbeaten season since 2006-07. They're ranked fourth in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register media poll.

"In the midst of football season, Xavier (who played safety for the team), comes into my room," said NFA head coach Chris Guisti, who works at the school. "I'm like, 'Xavier, you're having a good football season.' He's like, 'yeah, we're going to have a good football season, but in basketball, we're going 20-0.'

"I'm like, 'really? I better start working on some game plans.' ... And then Mason came in and he's like, 'we're winning all our games this year.'

"I love the confidence, (but) let's just beat Classical in Game 1 and take it from there."

NFA never trailed and led 38-24 at halftime.

Kareem Grisham helped the Falcons rally. He scored 20 of his game-high 32 points in the second half for Xavier (13-7).

The Falcons' Andrew Brown tied the game at 51 with a layup and 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the game.

Molkenthin answered back 30 seconds later.

"I feel like I can hit the big shot and I took the big shot," Molkenthin said. "I knew I was making that shot right when it left my hand. No hesitation."

"The reason (he made the shot) is simple — it was Senior Night," Guisti said.

Molkenthin's shot also started a 9-0 run.

"Coach (Neal) Curland (Guisti's predecessor) used to say, 'when the train gets rolling downhill, it's impossible to stop," Guisti said. "Xavier had that train rolling downhill and it was about to be a runaway train.

"Somehow, someway, we were able to stop it."

n.griffen@theday.com

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