Rakeem Christmas and Malcolm Gilbert departed for Syracuse and Pittsburgh, respectively. And blue-chip recruit Savon Goodman took his talents to Constitution High, in downtown Philadelphia.

That left Marcus Gilbert, Malcolm's younger brother, as the go-to player for Academy of the New Church.

"I'm fine with that role," the 6-foot-6, 185-pound senior said. "I saw this as a great opportunity for me to step up and show what I could do."

On Tuesday, in a Friends Schools League opener at Abington Friends, Gilbert, a high-leaping swingman, posted 16 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, and 3 assists to help the Lions leave Jenkintown with a 53-51 triumph.

"He's a great perimeter player and getting better," said slimmed-down ANC coach Kevin Givens, down 40 pounds since last season. "We're asking him to be more demonstrative in terms of leadership."

Gilbert is expected to be a wing guard at Fairfield. A native of Smyrna, Del., the 18-year-old also had scholarship offers from St. Joseph's, Temple, James Madison, and George Mason.

"It was tempting to go to one of the local schools," he said, "but Fairfield showed me they really wanted me."

Malcolm Gilbert, a 6-foot-11, 235-pound center, is trying to gain playing time at Pittsburgh. "He's probably a little more mature and outgoing with other people than me," Marcus Gilbert said. "I'm more conservative, like my dad [Charles]."

Against the Kangaroos, senior guards Daniel Pittman (seven rebounds) and Dinjiyl Walker each produced 15 points. Pittman netted 13 points after halftime.

In the closing seconds, with ANC (4-1 overall) ahead by 53-51, Walker blocked Montana Mayfield's three-point attempt from up top, and Gilbert gathered the deflection.

Mayfield, a junior guard and transfer from Roman Catholic, paced Abington Friends with 19 points, including two three-pointers.

The Kangaroos (3-3) have two other prominent junior transfers: guard Jared Wright (Souderton) and 6-7 forward Jerimyjah Batts (Communications Tech).

"I thought we competed really well with a brand-new team," AFS coach Steve Chadwin said. "We need to get a little more inside contribution and be more cohesive on the perimeter. The guys need to trust each other more."

Gilbert's steal and dunk gave the visitors a 51-45 advantage with a little less than two minutes left. Mayfield's top-of-the-arc trey with 38 seconds left cut the gap to 52-51.

Of losing Goodman to Constitution, of the Public League, Givens said: "Savon has got to do what's best for Savon. I'm hoping he's doing well and the school is a good fit for him."

Acad. New Church   11 12 14 16 – 53

Abington Friends   14 9 13 15 – 51

ANC: Daniel Pittman 15, Dinjiyl Walker 15, Darryl Bryant 5, Marcus Gilbert 14, Jayson Harkins 4.

AFS: Jared Wright 12, Jordan Greene 10, Jerimyjah Batts 2, Montana Mayfield 19, Will James 8.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone