With the completion of Friday's games, the semifinal field for the CHSAA 'AA' varsity is officially set.
The Knights of Holy Cross faced off against the St. Francis Prep Terriers followed by a fast paced game between the Rice Raiders and the Bishop Loughlin Lions.
Knights Bite Terriers, 66-53
Just as we predicted in our game preview, the Terriers came to the game with something to prove. Defending against the Knights with a zone, St. Francis Prep stifled Holy Cross early as 6'3" Glyne Straker (23 points) attacked the rim. Treys by 6'2" junior Will Davis (21 points) kept the Knights ahead throughout most of the quarter but a score by Straker with 55 seconds left in the first quarter tied the game for SFP at 8 apiece.
At the top of the second quarter, a three-ball by 5'11" Joe Salerno would give the Terriers their first lead of the game and baskets by 5'10" Mike Murray (6 points in the second quarter) and 6'0" George Hatzioannides (18 points) would keep them out in front by as much as nine points. With 28.5 left in the half, a trey by 5'8" senior Khamall Dunkley would provide a spark for the Knights and another 3-ball at the buzzer by Marcus Hopper (14 points, 7 rebounds) would further close the gap.
"In the first half, we just got caught playing at the wrong pace," said Knights head coach Paul Gilvary. "We felt that we needed to play a little faster."
At the onset of the third quarter, down 27-23, Holy Cross got their wires crossed at first as the sought to accelerate the tempo but two lobs from 5'8" junior Anthony Libroia to 6'0" junior Marquise Moore would soon change that. With 3:10 remaining in the third, Libroia would drain a jumper to tie the game at 34 and again at 36 going into the fourth quarter.
The up-tempo pace began to yield results as the Terriers began to get into foul trouble like dominos on the defensive end. The insertion of 5'11" junior Edward Roscigno (9 points) also added firepower and momentum to supplement a quiet night from the normally prolific Evan Conti.
"I really thought the key was [in the second half]; a couple of our subs, Khamall Dunkley [and] Eddie Roscigno. Those guys were in the game and kinda gave us a little energy and got us going," said Gilvary.
Hopper would begin to dominate inside, giving the Knight a 39-37 lead as the Terriers had to tip-toe on defense. Davis, who is recently healed from a knee injury, also played a solid game offensively. A three by Roscigno with 5:30 left in regulation, signaled the beginning of the end for St. Francis Prep. As time wound down the Terriers starting five, Murray, Hatzioannades, Straker, Salerno and Andrew Winter would foul out.
"We knew it was going to be very tough game," said Gilvary. "It's the fourth time we played them. They're a good team. They're all seniors. We knew they would fight to the bitter end. We expected all of that."
Raiders wake up; Muzzle Lions, 68-56
In the second game, a spirited Bishop Loughlin squad came to play against Rice. Tied at 10 apiece at the end of the first quarter, a lackluster Raiders squad could not prevent the Lions from roaring. While the Raiders led throughout the second half, 6'6" juniors Travis Charles (16 points) and 6'5" Joel Angus (9 points) would help reduce a 9 point advantage down to 2 points at the half.
Only ahead 25-23 at the top of the second half, Jermaine Sanders (16 points) began to rev up for the Raiders while Joshua Gomez (6 points) and 6'6" senior Richard Council (11 points) stepped up defensively. Lions point guard 6'1" junior Daijan Palmer (15 points) ran the offense for the Brooklyn squad but late baskets by Emmanuel Andujar (12 points) gave Rice a 48-39 lead going into the fourth quarter.
To Loughlin's credit, they never gave up but with 2:30 left to play and too many turnovers later, the Raiders maintained a 15 point lead. Bishop Loughlin would only be able to knock off three points before the hour glass emptied.
"People were saying, who are ya'll playing Wednesday [in the semifinals]? I think the players kinda looked [past Loughlin]," said Rice head coach Dwayne Mitchell. "You watch how we played against St. Raymond and how we played to today. It wasn't the same performance," he said. Coach Mitchell credited the win to Sanders stepping up in the second half.
Against St. Raymond, the Raiders played pressure defense throughout the entire game. A style of play Coach Mitchell referred to as "Raider ball." Asked if his team played Raider ball against Loughlin, Mitchell responded, "In spurts. We're trying to win championships. We gotta play [Raider ball] the whole game."
The semifinals will take place on Wednesday, March 9th at St. John's University. The 6pm game will be between Holy Cross & St. Rice while the 8pm game will be between Christ the King and St. Raymond.