By Anthony Parelli
Making use of a potent press and an attacking defense, Holy Cross was able to claim this season’s first meeting against rival St. Francis Prep in the Battle of the Boulevard.
“I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to turn them over but we did, which I was happy about because we practice it a lot and we haven’t been able to reap any of the benefits until now,” Holy Cross Coach Tom Marchesini said.
The 67-61 home victory over the Terriers Friday was a big one on many levels for the Knights, who have struggled early this season. St. Francis, on the other hand, has been one of the CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball league’s best teams, but suffered its second loss in the last three contests.
“We needed a win so I said forget who it is,” Marchesini said. “Tonight was really an important game for us. We really didn’t think about it as our rival until afterwards, and then we told them enjoy the rivalry win.”
It was the first time all season that Holy Cross (4-6, 2-3) tallied more than 60 points in a game. The Knights connected on six three-pointers. Marchesini still believes his club is inexperienced, but it did the things it needs to do in order to win. Holy Cross led by as much as 10 in the first half, but found itself in a tie game after two free throws by Jeriah Shambley for SFP.
Overall production at the free throw line was the difference in the game, according to St. Francis Prep Coach Tim Leary. Holy Cross went 23 of 26 from the line while the Terriers made just 13 of 29.
“Coach has always preached in practice hit your free throws, and that was the difference,” Knights senior guard Joshua Wallace said.
Holy Cross had three players in double figures. Wallace scored 16 points and Jermaine Bishop and Christian Wilson both contributed 14 points. Michael Fields and Jordan Santiago scored 17 points a piece for St. Francis Prep (11-3, 6-2). The depth of Holy Cross also made an impact when its aggressive defensive play resulted in some foul trouble.
“We built the lead in the first half with a lot of guys off the bench and they gave us a good push,” Marchesini said.
As Holy Cross hopes to surge forward, the Terriers have gone in the other direction of late after a 10-1 start to the year. Leary was surprised by the effort he got from his club early on. The teams meet again at St. Francis Prep Feb. 7.
“It wasn’t the kind of enthusiasm and effort we really needed,” Leary said. “It’s a disappointment. It’s a rivalry game and instead of building on a lot of success we’ve sort of taken a step back. But there’s a long year ahead of us, they’re good kids, we’ll be back.”