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Prep gets first league win over Cross

After playing league rivals Molloy, Rice and St. Raymond’s — three of the stronger basketball programs in the city — the St. Francis Prep Terriers and Holy Cross Knights were winless in CHSAA league play. Friday evening’s contest between the archrivals was a respite and presented a chance for each club to steal a conference win.

The Terriers prevailed in a choppy game, defeating the Knights, 58-55, at William O’ Meara Memorial Gym at Holy Cross. It wasn’t the prettiest of performances, but after a blowout loss to Rice last Tuesday, the Terriers will take a win any way it comes.

“Every league game is important,” Terriers’ coach Tim Leary said. “We made winning this one a major priority.”

St. Francis sophomore guard Brian Geffen capped a terrific individual performance with a steal and two free throws to seal the win in the final seconds. With the Terriers leading 56-54, Geffen swiped the ball from Daniel Surrett at mid-court and was fouled. He calmly scored the last of his game-high 20 points from the free throw line with 23 seconds left in the game.

Miguel Gonzalez hit one of two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to make it a one-possession game. The Terriers turned the ball over after rebounding the missed free throw, giving the Knights one last shot at victory. But a three-point attempt from the left corner by Gonzalez failed as time expired.

“We needed a league win,” Geffen said. “Hopefully, we will gain momentum from it.”

Terriers’ coach Tim Leary pulled aside Geffen in the locker room after the game for a one-on-one conversation. The chat remained between the coach and his player, but Leary hinted at what was discussed.

“He’s capable of being a major player,” Leary said. “He just has to have confidence in his game and keep working at it.”

“I wanted to have the ball in my hands at the end of the game,” Geffen said with a smile. “That’s what makes it fun.”

The Knights enjoyed the largest lead of the half, 14-11, when Andre Williams hit a short jumper to end the first. Both teams traded baskets between turnovers in the second, indicating that the game would be close. Gonzalez and Ramose Modesto combined for 13 points in the half to help Holy Cross take a 26-24 lead at intermission.

Geffen started the third with a long jumper and finished it with a three-pointer to tie the game, 43-43. In between, Modesto and Gonzalez fueled a 13-2 Knights’ spurt. The backcourt combination scored all but two of the points during the run, the last two coming on a layup by Modesto, assisted by Gonzalez, with 4:00 left in the third.

In the final period, the Terriers’ Richard Matrelle, who finished with 13 points, hit a baseline jumper and followed it with a three-pointer for a 52-47 lead. The Knights closed the gap to 54-51 with 2:14 left on baskets by Gonzalez and Surrett. Down the stretch, the Terriers left the door open by missing five free throws before Geffen’s two in the closing seconds.

Gonzalez finished with 17 points, six assists and nine rebounds for the Knights. Modesto chipped in with 13 points. Short of their performances, there wasn’t much for Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary to be pleased about.

After witnessing mental lapses on both ends of the court, he took an extra 15-20 minutes to address his team in the locker room after the game.

“It was a poor performance by us,” Gilvary said. “No team in this league is going to give you a win. You have to earn it.”

New Madrid (Mo.) County 63, Christ the King 62. In the consolation game of the Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo., Japhet McNeil led the Royals with 21 points and Brian Williams added 13 points. CK is now 8-7.

Xaverian 45, McClancy 44. Wesley Matthews scored 21 for the Crusaders, who came just a basket short of their second league win.

Christ the King 86, Ozark (Mo.) 84. Japhet McNeil scored 27 and Mitchell Beauford added 22 for the Royals at the Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo.

All Hallows 84, Archbishop Molloy 72. Jamaal Wagner had 21 points and Kevin Diffley added 15 for the Stanners in just their second loss of the season.

Reach contributing writer Adam Martini by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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