JAMAICA, NY – If you watched the first half, you wouldn’t have any idea which team was going to be the one to eventually win the game. It just looked like both teams were evenly matched and the game could go down to the wire.
|Mairega Clarke drives on Omari Manhertz|
What a difference a half makes, much less a quarter. After a basket by Malik Gill of Mount St. Michael, Holy Cross scored the next 14 points to take control of the game. It was basically a done deal right there, as Cross coasted to a 55-40 win to advance to the CHSAA “AA” Championship at Fordham University on Sunday.
According to senior forward Mairega Clarke, the game wasn’t a “coming out party” for his team. Well if 19 points and 16 rebounds isn’t a party, then please tell us what classifies as a party.
On the serious side, Clarke was the catalyst for Holy Cross seizing control of the game. The 6-5 Clarke scored 11 points in the third quarter, 15 of his 19 total points in the second half. Clarke was being guarded by the Mountaineers’ Omari Manhertz, but because the 6-4 forward was in foul trouble, Clarke was able to exploit him. Manhertz still ended up fouling out of the game, but Clarke still did a lot of the damage when he was in the game.
The game was close early, with the score 21-20 at halftime before the pivotal third quarter run. Holding a slim 28-26 lead midway through the period, Clarke nailed a three from the top of the key. After Gill scored, Anthony Libroia found Marquise Moore in the paint for a beautiful assist. Libroia had a peculiar double-double. He had 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but only 5 points. Still, Libroia was a force while he was in the game, coming a couple of baskets short of having a triple double.
Probably one of the biggest and most important things that Libroia did was defend Gill very well throughout the game. He had the confidence to do it because he had done it before and was successful. Gill didn’t really show up, only scoring 13 points before eventually fouling out. Gill is one of the top players in the CHSAA, as he proved all season, and especially when he scored 30 points while helping his team upset defending champions Christ the King last week.
Unfortunately for Gill, the magic ran out in the semi-finals. Gill also fouled out of the game, the second Mountaineer to do so. What was ironic was that Holy Cross was only called for 6 fouls the entire game, three in each half. On the other hand, Gill and Manhertz each had 5 fouls.
Moore had a big game for Holy Cross also. He finished with17 points and 9 rebounds for the Knights. Anthony Maestre had a good game, especially in the second half, finishing with a team high 18 points. But it was a case of too little, too late. Once Holy Cross took control and gained momentum, it wasn’t much of a contest as they pulled away from Mt. St. Michael.
Holy Cross will be playing St. Ray’s for the title on Sunday and Clarke is happy to be in that position. One reason is because there weren’t a lot of believers in his team, which has been together since 5th grade. Still they played with a natural confidence and have a great shot at the title this weekend.
“At the start of the season, I really don’t think people believed in us,” Clarke said. “They probably though we were going to be okay team, but we knew we had a lot of talent. We just had to bring it together and that’s what we did.