Rapid React: Holy Cross 60, Loughlin 57

Chris Hunt

The 2011-2012 Holy Cross Knights and coaches pose with the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan championship trophy.

Holy Cross senior Mairega Clarke said this game was extra special. Not just because his senior-laden squad was clamoring for a CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan title after losing to Christ the King last year and not just because they were playing against a Bishop Loughlin team stacked with sophomores who could have their time -- even if they needed to wait.

Clarke’s team wanted to honor their coach Paul Gilvary, who lost his mother earlier in the week. And they did. No. 2 Holy Cross beat No. 5 Bishop Loughlin, 60-57, for the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan title Friday night at St. Francis Prep in Queens. Holy Cross has made the title game five times in the last seven years and this is its second win.

Gilvary didn’t talk to the team about his mother. Clarke said he probably just wanted them to focus on the task ahead. But the players meet and decided that the best thing they could do for their coach was win.

“At practice yesterday I told the guys let’s do this for Coach Gil,” Clarke said. “This could be big. Everyone just came together and went out and gave it their all.”

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Bishop Loughlin jumped on Holy Cross early. The Lions led 18-6 with 6:48 left in the first half after sophomore guard Michael Williams broke loose for a thunderous right-hand dunk. But Holy Cross showed all the poise of a veteran team, clamped down on defense and went into halftime trailing 28-24.

“At halftime we talked and just told each other that we had to play together,” said Clarke, who finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 8 blocked shots. “We just needed to share the ball and play together. Everyone was out there going for themselves for a little while.”

The game stayed close in the third. The Knights went ahead 35-34 when Clarke drove through the middle for a layup and Holy Cross carried a two-point lead into the fourth. Free throws hampered both teams in the stretch. Bishop Loughlin missed five free throws in the fourth quarter. Elisha Boone led the Lions with 18 points but shot 4-for-11 from the line.

Holy Cross almost coughed up the game when Eddie Roscigno and Clarke each missed a pair of foul shots in the last 26 seconds.

WHEN FREE THROWS COST YOU: Bishop Loughlin had a change to tie the score at 58 after Roscigno and Clarke faulted. But Khadeen Carrington missed the second of two free throws. Boone gathered the rebound but put the ball on the floor and Holy Cross senior Marquise Moore dove on it, forced a jump ball and the possession went to the Knights with 3.6 left to play. Moore then converted a pair of free throws to seal the game.

STAR OF THE GAME: Moore plugged every whole for Holy Cross and provided every clutch play down the stretch, leading all scorers with 21 points. When Clarke earned his fourth foul with 2:24 left in the third, Moore scored six of the team’s next 11 points. Moore scored eight points in the fourth, including the clutch free throws with 2.8 left.

Senior teammate Anthony Libroia also finished the game with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.

KEEPING IT TOGETHER: Bishop Loughlin coach Ed Gonzalez said the loss would serve as a learning experience for his young team but acknowledged that his team was hungry to start. The Lions lost three transfers before the season started, Joel Angus and Tyliek Kimbrough to Boys & Girls and Travis Charles to Lincoln.

Many expected that the Lions would be rebuilding this season. Instead, they upset Christ the King in the semifinal, and Carrington’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer came within inches of sending the game to overtime.

“These kids, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with down the road,” Gonzalez said. “There’s not doubt. And that’s if the people would leave my guys alone and let me build a program.”

UP NEXT: Both teams will get ready to the CHSAA Intersectional championships next week.