Balanced Malvern attack sinks Episcopal

Four Friars scored in double figures as the Friars won the Inter-Ac game, 55-42.

On Saturday, when Malvern Prep's Joe Hoban visits New Hampshire University on a football recruiting visit, he also plans to have a chat with the school's basketball coach.

While Hoban is a standout receiver in football, the senior is also a talented point guard and enjoys basketball just as much, if not more.

"If I had to choose between the two sports, I'd probably go with basketball," Hoban said. "But I'm not really sure what I'm going to do. If it's possible, I'd like the chance to play both sports."

Yesterday, Hoban showed his improving basketball skills. The 6-foot, 170-pounder scored 12 points and handed out five assists as Malvern Prep knocked off host Episcopal Academy, 55-42, and moved closer to winning its first Inter-Academic League championship since 1995.

The first-place Friars, who avenged a 48-44 home loss to the Churchmen on Jan. 12, improved to 17-5 overall and 6-1 in the Inter-Ac. In 1995, they shared the league crown with Germantown Academy. Their last outright championship came in 1981.

"It's pretty exciting to be in the hunt for the title," Hoban said. "I'm confident we can get it done."

Against Episcopal, Hoban did not have one of his better shooting efforts. The senior went 3 for 11 from the field (2 for 5 from beyond the arc) and 4 for 8 from the line. However, in addition to his five assists, he grabbed six rebounds and made three steals. He committed just one turnover in 32 minutes.

"He has a toughness to him and an uncanny ability to compete," Malvern Prep coach Jim Rullo said. "He's a great competitor."

With Malvern clinging to a 45-42 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Hoban nailed a pull-up jumper to ignite a 10-0 run. After battling back from a 43-35 deficit, the Churchmen did not score in the final 4 minutes, 45 seconds.

Mike Francisco, a senior forward for the Friars, produced 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and had eight rebounds (four on offense). Junior forward Chris Cowell (seven rebounds) and senior wing guard Phil Gosselin added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

"We're not the most talented group out there," Rullo said, "but we have good kids and they're willing to check their egos at the door. We share the basketball."

Episcopal, hurting from the loss of last season's senior stars, Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson, fell to 4-16 overall and 1-6 in the Inter-Ac. Senior Mike Nealis, a 6-8 center, led the hosts with 11 points.

In football last season, Hoban had 30 receptions for 830 yards and 10 touchdowns. He doubled as a defensive back.

In addition to New Hampshire, Hoban is considering William and Mary and West Chester, which is a two-minute car ride from his home, for football. Gettysburg, Hobart and Catholic University are among the possibilities if he chooses basketball.

"I've got a big decision ahead of me," the 18-year-old said. "It's not going to be an easy one."

Malvern Prep 12 15 16 12 - 55

Episcopal Academy10 12 13 7 - 42

MP: Joe Hoban 12, Phil Gosselin 11, Mike Francisco 14, Ryan Nassib 2, Chris Cowell 12, Kevin Corbett 2, Paul Ostick 2.

EA: Mike Nealis 11, Herbert Bowen 2, Blair Fox 4, Pat Kelly 2, Jack O'Neill 10, Cory Goodman 8, Omari Grier 5.


Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien

at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.