By Laura Amato
It got close, but the Holy Cross boys’ basketball team never once doubted it would grab a victory – for the third time this season.
The Knights held on for a 65-53 victory over St. Francis Prep in the first round of the BQCHSAA postseason at Archbishop Molloy Monday night. It was the third time this year Holy Cross took down the Terriers.
“Since it’s the postseason, we knew we had to come out with more intensity,” said sophomore point guard Hassan Diarra. “It’s hard to beat a team three times because kids start to underestimate. We couldn’t do that here.”
The two squads stayed close throughout the first half, exchanging buckets and both sides did their best to grab a bit of on-court momentum.
Holy Cross jumped out to a double-digit lead with 2:17 left in the second quarter, but the Terriers refused to go down quietly and the teams battled on each possession.
The Knights took an eight-point lead into halftime, but the squad wasn’t particularly pleased with its early-game performance.
“I was disappointed that they got a lot of offensive rebounds in defense, so we made some changes on defense,” said Holy Cross coach Terry Tarpey. “We really didn’t trap the corners, we really stayed home in the lane a little bit more.”
The Knights couldn’t quite put St. Francis Prep away early in the third, but that all changed midway through the quarter when senior Jonas Cooper grabbed a loose ball off the floor and drove the lane, slamming down a big-time dunk.
The play got the Holy Cross bench on its feet and sparked the playoff crowd, giving the Knights a bit of much-needed, second-half confidence.
“I think that put us over the top,” said Cooper. “A big play like that just helps wrap up the game and I think that took their confidence away. We were able to pull it out.”
St. Francis Prep kept it close late in the third quarter, making it a five-point game with just seconds on the clock.
The Knights answered, however, sinking the final bucket of the quarter and opening up the fourth with a spring in their collective step.
Holy Cross outscored the Terriers 10-4 in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter and, finally, started to pull away down the stretch.
“We picked up our energy,” Tarpey said. “Once it got to five everybody was like, ‘Alright, game on.’ We responded, which I’m glad about, but it shouldn’t have come to that.”
Holy Cross connected on the big-time shots when it had to and while the Knights defense wasn’t always perfect, the offense found its rhythm when it mattered most.
“Coach told us to settle down, keep our heads and keep our focus,” Diarra said. “That really just sparked us.”
It wasn’t always pretty, but Holy Cross wasn’t concerned with the how, the Knights were only concerned with the final score. After all, a win is a win.
“A couple of guys made some big shots,” Tarpey said. “We had big possessions in big moments of the game.”