The first three quarters belonged to Carlos Galan, Gompers’ smooth 6-foot-1 shooting guard. Will Davis and Holy Cross owned the final stanza, a tradeoff they gladly took.
It was enough for a closer-than-expected, 64-61 victory for the Queens Catholic school in the CHSAA-PSAL Challenge at Baruch College on Sunday afternoon.
Davis led the Knights back from a 12-point, third-quarter deficit, scoring nine of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds remaining. Galan finished with 29 points, but managed just six after giving Gompers its biggest lead, 53-41, in the final minute of the third.
“The team needed somebody to step up, so I had to step up,” Davis said.
After a solid sophomore year, Davis struggled as a junior, mostly because of a nagging knee injury. He was never truly 100 percent and had to wear a bulky brace on his right knee that was so big Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary joked he could guard him. With a sleeve on the knee instead, that isn’t an issue anymore as Sunday’s performance showed.
“It makes me much quicker and able to cut faster,” he said. “I’m 100 percent healthy, so I feel good.”
Eddie Roscigno added 15 points for Cross, which was without standout guard Marquise Moore (broken toe). Mareiga Clarke had 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, Anthony Libroia tallied 11 points and six assists and Terrell Williams had nine.
Holy Cross (3-1) made life difficult for Galan, the high-scoring junior, by throwing multiple defenders at him, forcing Galan to give up the ball. The Knights sped up the tempo against the slower Panthers, creating fast break opportunities with their full-court pressure and stopped settling for perimeter jump shots.
“We made him work much harder,” Gilvary said. “We made him work much harder to get the ball, we made him work harder to get his shots off. I thought Terrell Williams did a great job defending him. That, I think, was the difference in the game.”
The game began to turn late in the third quarter when Davis and Clarke scored consecutive baskets to trim the Gompers lead to eight. Holy Cross got even on a Clarke 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:00 remaining and went ahead on a Davis free throw with 37.6 left.
After Galan answered with a free throw, Gilvary designed a play to free up Davis. Libroia penetrated and found the open Davis alone on the right wing. He drained the 3-pointer and Galan’s desperation heave at the horn only drew nothing but backboard.
“We executed and he was open,” Gilvary said of Davis’ game-winning jumper. “That’s all you can do — get your shooters open looks.”
It was another frustrating finish for Gompers (0-5), which had such high hopes during the preseason but is 0-5. Coach Ned Jackson criticized the game’s officials. There was a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter called on Yohan Almonte, he said, that was similar to a hard foul on Galan. Furthermore, a Galan basket down the stretch was wiped out because the Holy Cross foul was deemed on the floor.
“[The fourth quarter] is not the time for the officials to get involved,” he said. “They determined the game. My player got pushed to the floor, no flagrant; their player gets fouled hard, they get two shots and the ball. The officials were inconsistent.”
Jackson added: “We’re still waiting to get our first win. We had it. That was a win.”