Cross gets three the easy way

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It was but one shot, a three-pointer off a screen from the top of the key. But for the Holy Cross basketball team, Marcus Hopper’s bucket to open the CHSAA Class AA intersectional first round game against St. Peter’s meant more than just three points.

It was a sign of things to come.

The Knights buried 12 more shots from beyond the arc and cruised to an 82-64 victory over St. Peter’s at Archbishop Molloy Sunday afternoon. Holy Cross advances to the quarterfinals Thursday against Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan champion Christ the King at St. Francis Prep.

Hopper’s three-pointer also sparked a 13-0 run, giving the Knights a perfect start against an Eagles team that beat them up pretty good in a pre-Thanksgiving scrimmage on Staten Island.

“Every time Marcus hits a three like that we all get a little hyped,” Eric Klingsberg said. “It definitely boosted us.”

Hopper’s trifecta proved to be contagious. Klingsberg followed and then Joe Monahan and Bryant Fidele got in the act. When the smoke cleared, Holy Cross (12-14) dropped four three-pointers in the opening eight minutes and led 20-8.

“They shot the ball really well,” St. Peter’s senior forward O.D. Anosike said. “They were on fire and we couldn’t get to their shooters.”

Klingsberg scored a game-high 29 points on six-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc. Monahan had 19 points and 11 rebounds, shooting four-of-six from downtown. Evan Conti added 10 points and 13 rebounds and Hopper and Fidele scored nine points apiece in a balanced and impressive scoring attack for the Knights.

“It makes life much easier,” Holy Cross Coach Paul Gilvary said. “That’s one of the ways we’ve been successful this year because we’ve been able to kind of create difficult match-ups for the other team and we try and be patient enough to take advantage of them.”

As deadly as Holy Cross was from the perimeter in the opening eight minutes, they were even more lethal in the second half, going shooting eight-of-12 on three-point attempts. For the game, the Knights shot 50 percent from three-point range.

“In the beginning of the season it was mainly me and Joe, but Evan has stepped up, Klingsberg said. “He’s been playing hard in practice and ever since the end of the regular season he’s been playing great offensively and defensively. We need that going into the quarterfinals.”

Holy Cross didn’t have much of an answer for Anosike, the 6-foot-8 Siena-bound forward who had 25 points and 14 rebounds, but shot just five-of-15 from the foul line.

Bad free throw shooting proved to be contagious as Holy Cross was 17-of-30 for the game.

“I don’t know what happened. That was horrible,” Klingsberg said. “We’ve got to go back tomorrow to practice more.”

Holy Cross’ two-three zone, used to help limit Anosike, opened the door for senior point guard Dylan McCann, who helped spark the Eagles’ second-half comeback with all 17 of his points after halftime.

St. Peter’s (19-8) had got as close as 37-33 early in the third quarter. But Klingsberg and Monahan bombed away with a pair of three-pointers each and Conti beat the buzzer with another three-ball that extended the Knights’ lead to 58-38 heading into the fourth quarter.

A Holy Cross team that wasn’t very highly regarded coming into the season, after its top six players graduated from last year’s Class AA intersectional championship team will now face Christ the King, last year’s runner-up, in the quarterfinals.

“This is our second chance and us seniors have another chance to play and hopefully we’ll win that,” Monahan said. “It will be tough, but we can do it.”

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