Because of his team's youth, because of its inexperience, Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary doesn't know what to expect from his basketball team. He can script things perfectly, plan to a T, but when four sophomores and a junior step onto the court, perhaps the best plan is to pray to God and hope for the best.
Against powerhouse Rice Tuesday night at Holy Cross, the Knights rallied late after a slow first half only to fall to the Raiders, 79-68.
"I thought we'd be a little bit more ready for the intensity and the pressure that Rice can put on you," Gilvary said. "But, and I keep telling myself this, you can't know how to handle it until you've experienced it."
Rice (8-5, 4-2) is one of the few teams in the CHSAA 'AA' to be considered a veteran group, with seniors Curtis Kelly, Edgar Sosa and Kashif Pratt. And for the Raiders to be successful, to challenge for the intersectional championship, all three players need to contribute.
That didn't happen in a 50-47 loss to Christ the King Friday night at the Gaucho Gym, but that was certainly the case at Holy Cross.
Kelly, a 6-foot-9 UConn-bound forward, had 27 points, Sosa, a 6-foot-3 guard headed for Louisville had 19 and Pratt, an undecided 6-foot-4 guard added 10 points for Rice, which gave Holy Cross (8-9, 2-3)fits with its stifling full court press.
"When you throw the ball to the other team a lot, they're going to get a lot of easy baskets," Gilvary said. "Unfortunately, early in the game our guys thought we were wearing green tonight."
Rice scored seven of its first nine points off turnovers and led 40-28 at the half. The Raiders played their best basketball in the third quarter, extending their lead to 64-43 on a Sosa three-pointer.
Gilvary got a glimpse into his team's future in the fourth quarter after seniors Merlin Bass and Laurence Jolicoeur (10 points) fouled out. He fielded a team of four sophomores - Sylvan Landesberg (26 points), Trinty Fields, Edy Toussaint and Ernest Freeman - and junior Shameel Carty, who scored nine of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
And that group sliced Rice's lead to 10 with 2:45 left and should have gotten even closer after a Kelly turnover. But Freeman missed an open layup and then Rice scored the next six points, including four straight by Kelly, to extend its lead to 79-63 with 1:29 left.
"They're going to get better and better," Rice coach Mo Hicks said of Holy Cross. "They don't have a choice in this league."
Added Kelly: "I didn't think they were going to come back. We kept pushing at them, hitting at them but they kept coming back."
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2006 Community News Group
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