Holy Cross and Curtis don’t necessarily have a rivalry, but after last years hard fought contest in post Christmas tournament in New Jersey, won by the Warriors, both teams were looking forward to meeting up on the court when the schedules were announced this year. The game ended up being a hard fought defensive contest that wasn’t decided until the final seconds, but it was the Knights that got their revenge with a 52-51 victory.
Omar Woods, the gritty guard for the Warriors, got Curtis off to a quick start with 4 points early in the 1st but give Curtis a quick lead, but Marquise Moore ran the point well and had 5 points to give Holy Cross a 12-10 lead after 1.
Knights star Evan Conti found himself in foul trouble for the first time this season picking up his 2nd foul with 6:35 left in the 2nd quarter. Coach Paul Gilvary made the choice to sit Conti at that point and rely on the supporting cast to step up in Conti’s absence. The others did step up in a big way with Hopper going 4 of 4 from the free throw line in the quarter and Will Davis, who is slowly rounding into form in his 2nd game back from a knee injury, provided a spark off the bench hitting on a deep three and helping Holy Cross start to pull away and take a 28-19 lead into the half.
The Knights scored the first bucket of the 3rd to up there lead to 30-19, but Curtis would show fight and go on a 10-0 with Dashawn Richmond scoring 8 of the teams 10 points in that run. Richmond, who was held to only 2 points in the first half, went off in the 3rd scoring 14 points in the quarter and almost single-handedly brought the Warriors back into the game. Hopper continued to be a force inside for Holy Cross though doing a bang up job on the glass and scoring from close range with ease, but Curtis was back in the game and trailed just 42-38 after 3.
Curtis would not go away in the 4th. The Knights opened up a 50-46 lead with under 3 minutes to play but Woods would come and nail a big three ball to cut the deficit to just 1. Sloppy play on both ends saw both teams have a couple chances after that, but it wasn’t until Dontay Jackson connected on a short jumper inside that the score would change with Curtis grabbing it’s first lead since early in the 1st quarter with just over a minute to go.
Holy Cross didn’t panic at this point though and moved the ball around nicely and Hopper was fouled with under 20 seconds to go and the 6’9” big man hit both free throws to give the Knights back the lead at 52-51. Richmond had a driving lay up attempt on the other end for Curtis that was no good, Conti grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 7 seconds to play. Out of the timeout Holy Cross took a risk through the ball the length of the court, the ball was deflected and the Knights retained possession with 4 seconds to play. They inbounded and Conti got the ball and ran around and was finally fouled with 0.9 seconds left. He missed the front end of a 1 and 1 and Curtis grabbed the rebound with 0.5 to go and they called a timeout.
Curtis inbounded but the half court shot attempt was blocked by Moore and Holy Cross escaped with the 52-51 victory.
Holy Cross was led by the 14 points and 15 rebounds of Marcus Hopper, while Will Davis added 11. Dashawn Richmond led all scorers in the game with 16 for Curtis.
The tough win for Holy Cross was a learning experience on many levels. They had to learn to play the 2nd quarter without Conti on the floor, and how to pull out a close win, 2 things that the team showed they could do which please Gilvary.
“This was the first game for us decided near the last possession of the game which is hard to simulate in practice so to be able to have that happen today in a non-league game and be able to pull it out is much better then to have to experience that for the first time in a league game” Gilvary said.
The supporting cast stepping up was also something the Coach was pleased about.
“Marcus played well tonight, I also thought Marquise did a great job guarding Richmond holding him to just 2 points in the 1st half and blocking that last shot of the game. Eddie Roscigno did well for us coming off the bench and Will Davis really started to look a lot more like himself. All in all there was more good then bad.” Gilvary would add.
Curtis had nothing to be disappointed about in the loss playing Holy Cross extremely tough on the road, and Coach Rich Buckheit expressed nothing but positives after the game.
“We are improving everyday” Buckheit said. “Our guards are excellent even though they are young and our inside guys gave us more than usual today because they are improving too. We played with a lot of confidence and executed well and when we play like this again a team like Holy Cross with such great tradition it really says we are making great strides.” he would go on to add.
Both teams now move on to post-Christmas tournaments. Holy Cross goes to Binghamton, NY to play in the Stop-DWI Tournament, while Curtis is in the field of the Aviator Christmas Tournament in Brooklyn. Both coaches see their teams as being able to learn and build from these experiences.
“The have a great field this year in Binghamton so we are going to get to play 3 good teams there and we are just going to keep trying to get better for our league season.” Gilvary said.
Buckheit stressed the next 2 weeks for his team as a major test. “Of course we are hoping to win the Aviator but today was the start of a big stretch for us. Holy Cross today, and then the Aviator, followed by an up and coming Tottenville team, and then a big game with Wings on January 8th. With that schedule we may play 3 of the top 10 teams in the city in a 2 week span and we are really looking forward to it.”
Holy Cross did just enough though on this night to pull it out, and Gilvary believed that a game like this can teach him about his team. “When you win when you don’t play your best, that is usually the sign of a pretty good team.”
Holy Cross did show that they are a pretty good team on Thursday night. Just how good though? Only time will tell.