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Blaise Ffrench expected Sylven Landesberg to take the shot, just like everyone else in Carnesecca Arena.
But with the CHSAA Class AA intersectional semifinal game in the balance with 5.2 seconds left in regulation, the McDonald's All-American instead passed to Ffrench, whose shot lifted the Knights over favored Rice, 64-62, at St. John's Wednesday night.
"He could've shot the ball, he's supposed to take the shot," Ffrench said of Landesberg. "Thankfully he passed the ball."
Holy Cross, the No. 2 seed in Brooklyn/Queens, will meet Christ the King in an all-Queens final Sunday at Fordham University. The Royals defeated Bishop Loughlin, 69-56, in the other semifinal.
It is Holy Cross' first trip to the Class AA final since 1978, when the Knights fell to Mater Christi (now St. John's Prep). The last time they won the city championship was 1968.
"We really wanted it," Landesberg said. "I felt if we didn't get it, we were handing our jerseys in."
Landesberg, the school's all-time leading scorer and two-time league MVP, did his part. He burned Rice (23-3) for 14 points in the first quarter and had 20 of his team's 34 first-half points.
His pull-up jumper with 37 seconds left put Holy Cross (21-8) in front, 62-60, after the Raiders appeared to wrestle momentum away from the Knights in the fourth quarter.
But Rice's Kemba Walker, the city's other McDonald's All-American, responded with a fade-away jumper in the lane with 5.2 seconds left to tie the score at 62.
With the game on the line, Landesberg found Ffrench posting up Rice guard Jeff Harris. Ffrench turned, hit the shot and was fouled, sending the Holy Cross faithful into hysterics.
"A lot of guys in that situation take the shot themselves," Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary said. "Sometimes big players feel it's their birthright. Sylven is about making plays and winning games."
Ffrench's free throw bounced off the front rim, giving the Raiders one last chance to send the game into overtime. But after driving past Ffrench, Walker slipped just inside the foul line. His desperation heave at the buzzer while falling on his back was short and Holy Cross celebrated on the court.
"I got by Blaise and I just fell, I slipped and my shot fell short," Walker said. "I thought it was going in to tell you the truth."
It was a much different feeling leaving St. John's this year for Holy Cross, which blew a 19-point halftime lead in a one-point loss to St. Ray's in last year's semifinal.
"I'm very happy," Ffrench said. "I dreamed of making plays like that. Everyone screaming and yelling and it just felt so good."
That loss, as well as a brutal non-league schedule dotted with several nationally ranked teams, helped Holy Cross in this year's semifinal.
"We've been through an unbelievable season, played an unbelievable schedule," Gilvary said. "We've seen every situation we could see. The idea was to see everything we could to hope we could get into a game like this and be ready. The early results look good."
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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