By Dylan Butler
For three quarters, the Xaverian basketball team was stuck in a Holy Cross-induced malaise. The Knights’ patient offensive sets nearly lulled the Clippers to sleep and resulted in a 12-point deficit for Jack Alesi’s squad heading into the final eight minutes.
That’s when the alarm sounded for Xaverian.
“We just picked it up on defense,” Rasheem King said. “We got after them, made them handle the ball. We went into the fourth quarter saying we wanted to speed up the game and force turnovers and that’s what happened.”
The Clippers scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter en route to a 62-58, come-from-behind win at William O’Meara Gymnasium Tuesday night.
Xaverian (12-11, 6-7) has won three of four league games heading into the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan playoffs, including upsets of Christ the King and Rice, the favorites to play in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional final.
The Clippers believe they could play with anyone, as long as they play like they did in the fourth quarter Tuesday.
“It’s good for our confidence,” Jamel Fuentes said. “We realize that those are two tough teams and we were happy about the wins, but we’re not satisfied. We want more.”
A 3-pointer by Evan Conti (14 points) gave Holy Cross (10-13, 4-8) a 43-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But the Clippers went on a 13-2 run, capped by an Immanuel Thomas 3-pointer, to get within one, 45-44, with 4:56 left in the fourth.
Another Thomas 3 from the corner tied the score at 49 with 3:29 remaining and sparked a 12-3 run that put the Clippers in front, 58-52, with 47.5 seconds left. Xaverian scored 31 points in the final eight minutes.
“They won despite me today, I think,” Alesi said. “We just didn’t have the energy that we’ve had and I’m not sure why. … That falls on me. If you want to take the credit, some days you have them ready to play and some days you don’t.”
As has been the case whenever Xaverian is victorious, the Clippers had balanced scoring. Fuentes scored 13 points, King had 12 and Justin Exum and Yandell Denis added 10 apiece.
“We get our four guys going I think we can beat any team in the league,” King said. “If we play defense like we did in the fourth quarter, rebound, run the ball, we’ll be fine.”
Eric Klingsberg, who was one of five seniors honored before their final home game, scored a game-high 20 points for Holy Cross, which has lost three straight heading into its regular-season finale at Archbishop Molloy Friday night.
Sharif Mair, the team’s leading rebounder and third leading scorer, suffered a broken arm last Tuesday against Bishop Loughlin and is out for the remainder of the season.
“Everything was fine,” Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary said. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve led in the fourth quarter and we just don’t do enough to put the game away in some cases. Tonight was another example of that.”