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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — As Stepinac walked off the court following its 65-64 loss to visiting Xaverian on Friday evening, the players kept their heads held high.
After all, the Crusaders (3-4) had just played one of their better games of the season, taking a quality CHSAA AA foe down to the wire.
"Xaverian is a good team, Stepinac coach Tim Philp said. "Down the stretch we did what we needed to to stay in it. We didn't quit. We hit shots, forced them to take tough ones and we put ourselves in the position to win. They just hit the shots and the credit goes to them."
Xaverian guard Dillon Burns scored a game-high 20 points and went 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Many of his shots came just as Stepinac began to gain momentum.
"We did a good job keeping (Xaverian star Brian) Bernardi from killing us," Philp said. "But Burns was on fire. He hit one from the volleyball line. When a kid's hitting like that, it's hard to defend."
Stepinac rallied back to within two points with under 30 seconds remaining, but Xaverian (4-0) hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game with 10 seconds left. Crusaders senior guard Tyler Iacuone drilled a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left, however, Stepinac was unable to foul and extend the game.
Junior guard Josh James scored a team-high 19 points to pace the Crusaders. He buried nine first-quarter points to keep Stepinac within striking distance.
"We had a lot of energy early on," James said. "We knew this was a big game, especially because it was at home. We wanted to give our fans something to cheer for. Unfortunately, we just didn't come away with the win."
Stepinac senior transfer Devino McRae played tough in the paint, grabbing 13 rebounds to go along with six points. Quarry Greenaway added 10 points and six rebounds and guards Malik Omess and Naim Thomas scored eight points apiece. Omess also hit a deep 3-pointer as time expired at the third quarter.
"Me and Quarry have to do the dirty work," McRae said. "Rebound, box out, block shots — whatever our team needs to help us win."
Stepinac's next game is slated for Friday night at home against St. Mary's. Philp said that his team will need to continue to work if they want to compete in the tough AA division.
"It's right back into it now," the coach said. "We get back to practice this week and keep rolling. This is a tough schedule and there's no time for a letdown. We'll keep building and moving forward."
Follow Jordan Griffith on Twitter @MSGV_JGriffith