Holy Cross wins it for coach

The Holy Cross team celebrates its victory over Bishop Loughlin. Photo by An Rong Xu
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Paul Gilvary didn’t have to say a word. The Holy Cross players knew something was wrong. Among themselves, they vowed to play for their coach, whose mother died this week.

“Let’s do this for Coach Gil — this could be big,” Holy Cross senior forward Mairega Clarke said he told his teammates. “Everyone just came out and gave it their all.”

Gilvary’s loss was never a topic of conversation in practice. It didn’t have to be.

The senior-laden, second-seeded Knights came back from an early hole to beat No. 5 Bishop Loughlin 60-57 to win the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens boys’ basketball championship Friday night at St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows. It was Holy Cross’ first diocesan title since 2007 — the last time it won the intersectional city title — despite making the final five of the last seven seasons.

“We knew if we won this game, it would be for Coach Gil,” senior guard Marquise Moore said. “Through practice all week, that’s what was on our minds. That just inspired us to come out here and play the hardest we’ve ever played to come out and win this game.”

Moore finished with 25 points, Clarke and Eddie Roscigno had 10 points each and Anthony Libroia had nine assists and nine rebounds. Clarke added seven blocks, controlling the lane. The Knights now head into the intersectional playoffs as the top seed from Brooklyn/Queens. They get a berth into the quarterfinals, set for Sunday at Fordham University.

“Honestly, at the beginning of the season a lot of people didn’t think we’d be as good as we are,” Clarke said. “We knew we had a lot of talent, we just had to bring it together and not be selfish. That’s what we did.”

Loughlin (13-13) led 22-10 on an Elisha Boone basket with 4:07 left in the first half. By halftime, Holy Cross (22-4) was within 28-24 and heading into the fourth quarter the Knights led 41-39. The Lions drew even on two Khadeen Carrington free throws with 2:38 left, but that senior experience took over. Loughlin, by contrast, features eight sophomores.

“Late fourth quarter we all brought it in,” Moore said. We said we’re seniors, they’re sophomores. They got two more years to win the championship. We gotta do this now.”

Cross actually missed four straight free throws late, but Loughlin clanked 10 in the second half as well. Carrington made 1-of-2 to get the Lions within 58-57 with seven seconds left, but Moore made two of his own. Carrington’s halfcourt heave just missed off the side rim as time expired.

“We really believed it was going to go in,” Loughlin Coach Ed Gonzalez said. “He does that in practice. We’ve won a game like that before.”

Boone had 18 points, Carrington had 16 points and Michael Williams added 13 for the Lions, who will be the No. 2 seed from Brooklyn/Queens in the intersectional playoffs. They will also get a berth into the quarterfinals, but could be on a collision course with powerhouse Cardinal Hayes in the final eight.

That made the victory even bigger for Holy Cross, which celebrated vociferously after the game.

Gilvary didn’t want to talk much about his mother’s death, but he was touched that his players would dedicate the victory to him.

“It’s not about me,” the coach said. “It’s always about them. They’re the ones that do all the work and they’re the ones that should reap all the benefits and get all the accolades. It’s just been a tough week, let’s leave it at that.”

Gilvary, who was recently named CHSAA ‘AA’ Coach of the Year by league coaches, never let any emotions show to his players before the game. But he was visibly emotional afterward.

“There was no sign that he was different,” Moore said. “He stayed strong for us, he stayed strong for the team.”

They returned the favor.

Posted 5:47 pm, February 29, 2012
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