Holy Cross head coach Paul Gilvary wasn't crazy about his Knights team being scheduled to play in their CHSAA-PSAL Challenge game on Saturday. That's because he had played the previous evening in what was a blowout victory over Cardinal Hayes.
The conditioning of this Queens team was put to this test on Saturday night, as they took an early lead before a furious late second half rally by Boys & Girls High School sent the game into not one, but two overtime periods before the Knights were able to put away their public school opponent by a final of 78-73.
Boys & Girls of Brooklyn, NY, coming into this game rated #3 in the NYCHoops.net New York rankings and one the favorites to challenge for the PSAL title, found themselves up early in the game because of their ability to play an efficient up and down game. Guard Brandon Romain and 6'6" forward David Imes were able to pick up much of the scoring for coach Ruth Lovelace's squad despite an off night from Rutgers-bound forward Patrick Jackson. Jackson struggled in shooting the ball from the field but was encouraged by Lovelace to keep shooting, as he is usually a successful shooter from beyond the arc. If shooting is contagious, then Jackson must've spread the flu to his other teammates, as most of the Kangaroos struggled from the floor for much of the evening, especially in the first half. Boys & Girls had a 13-12 lead after the first quarter, however after a 10-2 run by Flushing, NY's, Holy Cross, the #7 team in the NYCHoops.net rankings, in the latter portion of the second quarter, the Knights' confidence was soaring heading towards halftime. The CHSAA school went into the locker room up 33-27, thanks to the scoring prowess of Virginia-bound Sylven Landesberg and fellow guard Blaise Ffrench, who combined for 23 of their team's 33 points. The 6'5" Landesberg also had a big half on the boards, as he was able to pull down 10 rebounds against the loaded frontcourt of Boys & Girls.
Coach Lovelace decided that her team would need to turn up the tempo in order to be more successful scoring the ball, and be less dependent on the outside shot. She switched defenses from the slow-down zone to a more aggressive man-to-man defense and to press more. However, these changes did not show dividends immediately as Holy Cross was able to open up a game-high 14-point lead with 3:37 to go in the third quarter.
The game seemed to turn once athletic 6'8" big man Kyrie Sutton, who came off the bench for tonight's game and only played 1 minute in the first half, became involved on both ends of the floor. Sutton became an integral part of the Boys & Girls comeback in the late in the third quarter as well as the rest of the game as he provided help on the boards and became a focal point down low for Holy Cross to match up with. This allowed the floor to open up more for Brandon Romain, who scored in a variety of ways around the bucket as well as from 8 to 12 feet away from the hoop. However, the 6'6" forward Jackson and his usually consistent outside shooting teammate, Clayton Sterling, both continued to struggle from the floor. Sutton scored seven straight points late in the third quarter to cut the lead to single digits and raise the confidence level of his team. While the Kangaroos did end the third quarter down by seven, the momentum was swung in their favor.
That momentum continued to snowball in their favor, as Boys & Girls was able to tie the game at 52 just two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter when Romain, who transferred from Xaverian High School over the summer, knocked down a three from the corner. During the run, many of the Holy Cross players began showing frustration at their inability to slow the game down and build their lade, and this frustration came to a head when the senior guard Ffrench picked up a technical foul after receiving a personal foul (Ffrench, along with teammates Kayvon Roberts and Ernest Freeman, all fouled out during the game). However, Clayton Sterling went to the line and missed all four free throws that he took, just a few of the many missed charity stripe opportunities during the evening for Boys & Girls. Both teams went neck and neck during the rest of regulation. The Brooklyn school had a chance to win it, however a missed jump shot by Cyril Reid at the buzzer sent the game into the first overtime.
The free throw line struggles reared it's ugly head for coach Lovelace's team once again during the first overtime. With the Kangaroos down by one with 15 seconds left in the first overtime, strong guard Cyril Reid was fouled while taking a jump shot and was sent to the line with a chance to give his team the lead. After making the first, Reid missed the second and the game was sent into a second overtime.
While Holy Cross did play the night before the tough match against Boys & Girls, you wouldn't have known it based on the energy level during the second overtime from coach Gilvary's team. Under appreciated senior forward Tim Beinert, who is receiving some division two and a little division one interest from coaches, made several key plays for the Knights during the second extra session. None was bigger though, than the straight away three pointer that he knocked down with 3:14 to go that gave his squad a 71-68 lead, which fired up the rest of his team and set the tempo for a victorious final overtime for Cross. After Jackson, the Boys & Girls senior forward knocked down two free throws with just under two minutes remaining; Sylven Landesberg finished an impressive lay-up, which would give Holy Cross a lead that they would never relinquish, winning by a final of 78-73.
The Boys & Girls coaching staff and players had to look at the final box score and think "what could have been" if they had made a few more of their 17 missed free throws in the game (Holy Cross didn't exactly light it up either from the free throw line, missing 16 free throws themselves). Struggles from beyond the arc also contributed mightily to Boys & Girls' demise in this game, as they made only 2 of 23 shots from beyond the arc on Saturday night. As for Holy Cross, Gilvary came away knowing that his team had faced, and passed a real test against a very tough public school team. The Knights' head coach also was impressed with the increased durability of Beinert, "Tim was terrific, he played the whole game and that's after playing last night. He had worked very hard to get himself in shape in the off-season, he lost a lot of weight, and he's in much better physical condition. That really showed today as he made some big plays down the stretch tonight" as he added, "Sylven (Landesberg) got the MVP award, but without Tim's contributions I don't think we would've won this game."
Landesberg finished as the high scorer in the game, putting in 29 points to go along with his 20 rebounds on his way to winning the MVP award in this game. The 6'2" senior Romain led the way for Boys & Girls, finishing with 23 points and 7 rebounds as he wonthe Sportsmanship award."
Stay tuned to NYCHoops.net for continuing coverage of both Holy Cross and Boys & Girls High School this season.
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