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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

20221206, HCC Women's Basketball, Holy Cross, Grace Adams, Ryan Vigilante, SMC Basketball-10.jpg

A tale of two teams: Holy Cross basketball

Women advance to CCAC semifinals, while men conclude second-worst season in their CCAC history

Over the weekend, both the Holy Cross women’s and men’s basketball teams concluded their regular seasons. The women’s team finished a strong regular season, won their conference quarterfinal game and are headed to the semifinals. The men’s team turned in one of the worst years in program history.

Women’s Basketball

Last Wednesday, the Saints traveled to Trinity Christian to take on the Trolls (4-20, 4-14), looking to improve their conference record with an eye toward the CCAC playoffs. Thanks to junior forward Grace Adams and sophomore guard Kayliana Hammel, the Saints knocked off the Trolls 80-54 and improved to 15-12 (12-7).

Hammel led the Saints with 26 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists in 29 minutes while shooting 10-of-12 from the floor. She was also perfect from the free throw line, making all five of her attempts.

Adams also played 29 minutes and scored 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting but had game-highs of 8 rebounds and 6 steals. 

Turnovers were key to the Saints’ 12th CCAC victory. After the first quarter, the Saints led the game 19-17, with Trinity matching the Saints blow for blow.

The separation came in the second quarter when the Trolls had 9 turnovers, with 4 in the first three minutes. The repeated turnovers allowed the Saints to build up a 28-20 lead and separate from the Trolls. Despite just a two-point lead to start the second, the Saints went into the half with a 15-point lead.

In total, the Saints forced 28 turnovers and scored 30 points off them, which let the Saints build a bigger lead each quarter, ultimately resulting in a dominant 80-54 win.

Saturday’s senior day game against Governors State posed an opportunity for the women’s team: the chance to beat the second-best team in the CCAC this season. 

Instead, the Saints fell short, losing 83-74 as the Jaguars staved off a Saints’ comeback attempt. 

The Saints got off to a quick start, leading at the end of the first quarter 18-12. Hammel had 7 points, while senior guard Lauren Morris had 6. The two would finish with 19 and 16, respectively. 

However, the lead didn’t last long as the Jaguars began a 30-point second quarter, going 11 of 15 from the field, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Thanks to their strong shooting performance, the Jaguars led at the half 42-32. 

The Jaguars shooters cooled down significantly in the third quarter but still controlled the game with a 62-51 lead going into the fourth. 

The Saints continued to chip away at the lead and an Adams jump shot cut the Jaguars' lead to five with 3:57 to play. However, Governors State rebuilt their lead and won 83-74. 

The loss dropped the Saints to 15-13 (12-8), resulting in a sixth-place finish in the CCAC. It also marked the best conference finish in program history since the 2018-2019 team went 12-8.

The sixth-place finish resulted in an opening-round away playoff matchup against the Saint Xavier Cougars.

The Saints took an early lead over the Cougars and led 18-16 after the first quarter. The Saints held their lead until midway through the second quarter as the Cougars snatched it and took a 38-37 lead into the half.

The third quarter was tight, but the Saints were able to take a narrow lead thanks to senior forward Neva Longhofer and Adams. Longhofer scored 9 points, six of which came on big three-point makes, while Adams chipped in 7. Adams would finish with 31 points in 38 minutes, while Longhofer finished with 12 points and 2 blocks in 26 minutes.

In the fourth quarter, Adams scored another 11 points and Longhofer hit her final three of the game as the Saints knocked off Saint Xavier, winning 87-78. The win is the Saints’ first playoff win since the 2018-2019 season when the Saints also beat Saint Xavier 65-60.

Thanks to No. 7 Olivet Nazarene knocking off No. 2 Governors State, the Saints now have a home game against the Tigers in the conference semi-finals. Holy Cross lost to the Tigers twice during the regular season. They lost on the road 113-71 and at home by a score of 94-72.

Should the Saints defeat Olivet Nazarene, the team would advance to the CCAC Championship game, where they could potentially win the conference championship and advance to the NAIA postseason tournament. 

The CCAC semifinal round games will be played on Thursday, with a still-to-be-determined start time at McKenna Arena. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday.

Men’s Basketball

While the women’s team tied the program record for wins, the men’s team also made program history, just not the kind you want to be remembered for. 

On Wednesday, the Saints also played the Trolls, who were 0-18 in conference play and still searching for their first conference win. Despite a 40% 3-point shooting night for the Saints, turnovers doomed the team to an 82-80 loss. 

The two squads played a thrilling back-and-forth affair with 12 ties and 17 lead changes that came down to the final possession. 

After freshman forward Desmond Davie hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 80 apiece, Trinity Christian’s Garrett Greene nailed a buzzer-beating jump shot to give the Trolls their first (and only) conference win of the season. 

The Saints next game against Governors State had an equally heartbreaking finish as the Saints lost 79-77 despite having the ball for the game’s final possession. 

The Saints, who led by as much as 14 in the second half, surrendered their lead with 6:14 to play. The Saints spent the rest of the game chasing the Jaguars, always within striking distance. 

However, after Davie fouled Governors State's Jalen Levy and Levy made both his free throws with four seconds left, the Saints had one last chance to either tie the game with a two or win it with a three. 

The game came down to a last-second three-point shot by Justin O’Neal. The junior guard missed the shot, and the Saints dropped to a final record of 8-20 (3-17).

The finish results in the program's second-worst regular season conference record since the team’s inaugural season in the CCAC, when the Saints went (0-10) in conference play back in the 2009-2010 season.