For Holy Cross students, final exams ended on Friday, Dec. 16. The campus closed the following day at 10:00 a.m. as the student body returned home for their much-anticipated winter break.
The Holy Cross men’s basketball team, however, returned to work. From Dec. 10 to Dec. 17, the squad had a brief reprieve from its grueling conference schedule for exams.
But on Dec. 17, the team piled into the team bus and made the journey to Fox Point, Wisconsin, where they faced Cardinal Stritch.
This game was arguably one of the most critical of the season. The Saints had just a 1-5 conference record, with a 4-8 record overall. The Stritch Red Wolves were 0-13 on the season, making this a must-win for the Saints.
Holy Cross delivered a 74-58 win, catalyzing the team to salvage what, to this point, had been a disappointing season. Holy Cross returned to South Bend to face the IUSB Trojans and lost a hard-fought game 68-87 to fall to 5-9. Since that game, however, Holy Cross has been undefeated, winning their last five games, four of which were conference matchups.
Their first win was a non-conference game against Concordia University on Dec. 30th. The Saints nabbed a 78-72 road win, with freshman guard Phil Robles II knocking down three clutch free throws to ice the game.
The Saints then pulled off a major road upset of Saint Xavier University. At the time, the Cougars were in first place in the conference, boasting a 14-3 record overall. The game was a back-and-forth affair, with the Saints matching the Cougars shot for shot down the stretch.
Ultimately, senior guard Storm Cook’s jump shot would give the Saints the lead with just six seconds remaining, and the Saints survived a last-second three-point shot attempt by Xavier. According to head coach Mike McBride, that win did a lot for the Saints’ mentality going forward.
“That was probably the first game all year that was a back-and-forth affair. That game was a heavyweight back and forth, and we showed a lot of resiliency and toughness,” McBride said.
McBride also thinks that the game gave the Saints the confidence to play with anyone in the conference.
“I think our guys have a lot more belief in themselves now, which is needed to win. But belief sometimes isn’t enough until you see the fruits of your labor; you see the results. Now we got that result, and the challenge is to keep going with it and keep improving,” he said.
The Saints then returned home, defeating Trinity Christian College 81-57 and completing a season sweep of Cardinal Stritch 64-52. The most recent win against Stritch gave the Saints a 10-9 overall record and a 6-6 record in the CCAC.
Their 6-6 record is good enough for eighth in the conference. If the season ended today, the Saints would make the postseason conference tournament, where they would face the No. 1 seed Roosevelt University Lakers.
Coach McBride says the turnaround is due to several reasons.
“We have had a number of things that have happened that have helped us. Our new guys are continuing to get better and improve and play at a higher level,” McBride said. “Our two sophomores, [guards] Nash Hostetler and Justin O’Neal have become a lot more consistent. [Senior guard] Beau Ludwick has continued to show outstanding leadership.”
The Saints will look to continue their winning ways Wednesday when they face Calumet. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Contact Tom Zwiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.