YOU'RE ALLOWED TO call Dan Hilferty the floor general of Episcopal Academy's basketball team.

In this specific case, though, a more fitting description would be quarterback.

Know where we're going with this? . . . Yes, Hilferty, a 6-1, 170-pound senior, played quarterback for the football Churchmen.

Please compare and contrast, Dan. The floor, as it usually is, is yours.

"The two positions are very similar," he said. "In both sports, you have to keep all of the players under control, and be a leader. Football helped me with that because you have to deal with more players.

"In football, coach [Bill] Gallagher always put the ball in my hands, so to speak. And it's the same thing with basketball. Coach Doc [Dan Dougherty] always says, 'You're running the show.' He always wants me to come to get the ball."

Hilferty was talking last night in the basement of the impressive gymnasium at Garnet Valley High. Minutes earlier he had helped lead the Churchmen past Collingswood, of South Jersey, 65-55, in the opening round of GV's holiday tournament.

Tonight's title-game foe, 8:15 p.m. start, for Episcopal will be Chichester, a 61-43 winner over Garnet Valley in last night's second game.

Hilferty finished with eight points, two rebounds, two assists and three steals. Shooting is not his specialty, but he was quite efficient at 3-for-4 from the floor and 1-for-1 at the line.

He showed exquisite timing, too.

With just over 3 1/2 minutes remaining, and seconds after Dougherty hollered for the Churchmen to begin wasting clock in their patented double-high delay offense, Hilferty exploded toward the hoop from the right wing and wound up with a three-point play.

The lead was a game-best nine and the Panthers were sufficiently deflated.

Did Hilferty hear Dougherty?

"Yes, I heard him," he said, smiling. "He did want us to get the clock on our side. I was kind of in trouble. I saw a guy coming over to double me, but there was a lane and I took it."

Day-after-Christmas games are often sloppy. The Churchmen practiced Christmas Eve, then had off until congregating yesterday for a late afternoon shootaround at their school before making the trip to Garnet Valley.

"We did that so we wouldn't come out too sluggish," Hilferty said.

The words were barely out of his mouth when he realized he wished he could have taken them back.

Someone said, "You guys were throwing the ball . . . "

"All over the place," he jumped in.

Hilferty was only partially responsible, but the feeling was worse.

"When we play poorly, I do feel it's my fault," he said. "I'm supposed to keep us playing smart and making the right plays. Coach Doc was pretty upset. He still was, even at halftime when we were back within [31-29]. He knows what we're capable of."

In time, Episcopal was impressive. Junior Cory Goodman (also four steals) packed 11 of his 22 points into the fourth quarter. Sophomore Jack O'Neill posted 20 points, 11 rebounds and three apiece of assists and steals. Omari Grier (eight points), Matt Byrne (two assists) and sixth man Allen Heggs (five rebounds) also contributed.

Collingswood, which is coached by Joe McLoughlin, the brother of former star Temple guard Jim McLoughlin, received 23 points from mad-bomber Darnell McCargo.

Hilferty and Byrne are the only seniors in Episcopal's rotation.

"It kind of stinks to be leaving," Hilferty said. "It'll be fun to come back and watch these guys get better each year."

Hilferty, who lives in Havertown and figures he'll eventually major in business, is talking to Scranton and some other Division III schools with designs on playing basketball.

"I always loved it," he said. "I grew up shooting hoops in my backyard rather than throwing a football. As I got older, I did get a little better in football and it made its way up the ladder toward basketball. Football was fun while it lasted. But I never loved it as much." *