By Robert Cole
The Holy Cross Knights opened their 2018-2019 CHSAA basketball campaign at home with a tough 56-53 loss to Iona Prep in a game that was decided at the last second.
Playing under first-year varsity coach Ray Cullinan, the Knights showed grit and toughness as they continued to fight from behind, giving themselves a chance to tie the game on a last-second shot by Elijah Perry.
“In the first half we played well, defensively we did a great job in the first half,” Cullinan said. “They stretched the lead in the third quarter, but in the fourth quarter, we were aggressive and we kept going, which is what you always want to see.”
You never want to see your team rollover and die, instead you want them to get back up and see what you can do, which is what we did, so I was happy about that,” he added.
Holy Cross started the game off strong, scoring the first five points of the contest on a basket by Sean Flynn and a three-pointer by Perry. But Iona Prep went on their own five-point run to tie the score at 5-5.
Both teams were cold from the field during the first quarter, but the Knights rallied and finished the stanza with a three-point basket at the buzzer by Shemar Franklin, which gave them an 11-6 heading into the second quarter.
The Gaels’ offense was heating up in the second period, going on a 10-0 run to grab a 16-13 advantage. Their lead increased to 21-13, but Holy Cross fought back, cutting the deficit to 23-21 heading into halftime.
Tyler Chapman, who lead the Knights offense with 17 points, opened the third quarter with a three-point basket to give the Knights a 24-23 lead. The teams would battle back and forth and with the score tied at 29-29, Iona Prep, led by four three-pointers from Will Rubin, went on a 17-9 run to close the quarter, taking the 46-38 lead into the final frame.
The defenses were front and center in the fourth, as both teams exchanged turnovers and baskets on four consecutive possessions with Iona Prep holding onto the lead at 50-42.
The Gaels’ lead grew to 56-47 with less than two minutes to go in the game, yet the Knights continued to fight back as their defense increased the pressure, which led to several Iona Prep turnovers that Holy Cross used to pull within three at 56-53 with 29.9 on the clock. Iona Prep missed crucial free-throws, keeping it a one-possession game.
Holy Cross called a timeout with 2.8 seconds remaining, leaving just enough time on the clock for one more shot.
Coming out of the timeout, the Knights ran a play that allowed Perry to break open for a step back three-pointer, which was blocked by Iona Prep, who secured the 56-53 victory.
“There’s no days off, there’s no easy ones and we just have to keep grinding, keep working and just focus on everybody doing their job,” Cullinan said. “That’s the most important thing.”