The last time the Stepinac boys basketball team stepped on the court, it was upset by St. Peter’s in the opening round of the CHSAA ‘AA’ New York Archdiocesan tournament.
The positive out of that loss was the 10 days it gave the Crusaders to prepare for its opener in the CHSAA ‘AA’ intersectional tournament. And when they got back into action Wednesday, their last game was “definitely” behind them, according to CHSAA coach of the year Tim Philp.
That appeared to be true as the Crusaders led Holy Cross by as many as 19 points in the second half before ultimately beating the Knights, 73-64, to advance to the quarterfinals. Stepinac will play Archdiocesan champion St. Raymond Sunday at Fordham University.
“As far as I’m concerned, the Archdiocesan (tournament,) there’s not that much meaning behind it aside from trying to get a higher seed (for the intersectional tournament,)” Philp said. “This is the playoffs. Now, it’s one game at a time.”
Stepinac (19-7) led by four at halftime before an 8-0 run in the middle of the third quarter helped break the game open. Junior guard Naim Thomas scored 12 of his 21 points in the second half, driving to the hoop at will. Thomas also grabbed six rebounds and had four assists.
Thomas called the loss to St. Peter’s a “wake-up call.
"We beat them the first time, so we thought we could walk in and beat them again, but it didn’t happen like that. We came out sluggish.”
Holy Cross (9-12) cut the lead to 10 at the start of the fourth quarter before an 11-1 Crusader run ended the Knights chances.