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HCC Men's Basketball

Saints break win record behind senior contributions

| Friday, May 17, 2019

The 2018-2019 season was arguably the most successful season in Holy Cross history as the Saints broke the school’s record for most wins in a single season while advancing to the semifinals in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s postseason tournament for the second-straight year.

Head coach Mike McBride attributed the Saints’ (21-11, 14-6 CCAC) achievements to the quality of the whole team, especially the team’s two seniors: forward Bryce Crosen and guard Nate Miller.

“[The seniors] were the backbone of the team,” McBride said. “Obviously, we had a number of other key contributors and [had] some underclassmen who played really well. We went through a tough stretch in the middle of the year, and it was the character and competitive nature of our seniors that carried us through. To have a successful season, you have to have contributions from a lot of guys, and we had that.”

Crosen and Miller leave Holy Cross as two of the most decorated players in the program’s history. At forward, Crosen is the Saints’ all-time leading scorer, amassing 1,110 total points in his collegiate career and leading his team in rebounds this season. With an impressive 454, he also leads the school in career field goals made, averaging 13.4 points per game this season. Miller dished out 370 assists in his career, the most of a Holy Cross player. He is also tied for first in most games played at the school with 125. Coach McBride praised was the profound impact he said these two seniors had on the program.

“Well, they’re both four-year guys, and they have carried themselves in an exemplary manner,” McBride said. ”They impressed everyone with their success on the court but more importantly with their achievements academically and by how they carried themselves around campus. You wouldn’t find two better representatives of Holy Cross and … what college athletics should look like.”

The underclassmen were also key contributors to the Saints’ postseason run. Sophomore guard Storm Cook led Holy Cross in scoring with 17 points per game. His accomplishments this season included scoring 100 three-point shots, which puts him in the company of some of the best long-range scorers in the country. Junior guard Robby Jimenez added 13 points per game while shooting a scorching 45% from three. McBride was excited about the play of his younger players.

“We had a number of them,” McBride said. “Robby Jimenez is … following in the footsteps of Bryce and Nate … and was outstanding this year. He’ll be a fourth-year guy next year, and we’ve kind of built the program around him. Storm Cook was first team all-conference, and one of his classmates, [guard] Jordan Gaines, was one of the most versatile players in the league.”

When asked about the most improved player on the team, McBride stated junior forward Parker Sims had the most dramatic increase in skill over the season. He averaged six points per game and is a defensive-minded player.

“The most improved [player] was Parker Sims, who was a transfer from … California,” McBride said. “He came in and was able to help out right away, but he was really inconsistent. Over the course of the season, he became one of the best defensive players in the league and became a lot more of a consistent offensive threat. Throughout the year, his attitude and competitive character were always at a high level. If you get those things right, you’re going to improve and play at a high level.”

The Saints’ defense was ranked second in the nation, as they only allowed 65 points per game to be scored against them and secured just under 30 defensive rebounds per game. When asked about the focus of his team, McBride said Holy Cross specializes in defense while still developing their offensive weapons.

“We are a defense-first team, so that is always at the forefront of our practice sessions, walkthroughs, game plans and in-game execution,” he said. “We place particular attention to that end of the floor, but you can’t focus exclusively on that and let other parts of the game go to detriment. Our defensive character was seen in a number of guys: Jordan Gaines, Parker Sims, Nate Miller and Bryce Crosen. They were all some of the best defensive players in the league. Storm and Robby, who were our two best scorers, improved dramatically at the defensive end, and that led to the consequent improvement of our team.”

The Saints went 14-6 in conference play while losing only three total games at home. They ended up finishing second in the CCAC, and they lost a hard-fought battle against Governors State University 70-64 in the semifinals of the CCAC Tournament.

The team overcame three and two-game losing streaks early in the season, and McBride said he admired how his team endured this frustrating period and how they became a better team because of these struggles.

“We were really inconsistent for about the first third … of the year,” McBride said. “We would get off to a good start and then stumble a little bit. … Early in conference, we had a really tough spell where we struggled for about three or four weeks. The season really could have turned for the worse, but, led by Bryce and Nate, we were able to steady things and get a couple wins. It just took off from there, and we put together a couple of really good winning streaks. We worked towards being around the top of the conference and towards putting ourselves in position nationally. We ended up not making the national tournament, but we put ourselves in contention. To our guys’ credit, they stayed true to each other … and worked their way through the rough stretches.”

McBride said he was also very proud of his team’s grit and of his seniors’ success.

“Our guys showed a lot of toughness and resiliency to … not just recover from a bad streak but to build off it and excel,” he said. “I was proud of our two seniors and all the time, effort and commitment that they displayed in these last four years. They were able to see it pay off, and they ended on a peak and on their most successful moment.”

Looking toward the future, Holy Cross has eight returning players and a strong recruiting class of prospects from around the greater area of Northern Indiana. They also only lost two players — both graduating seniors. The Saints may also end up signing some talented transfers in this offseason. McBride said he is optimistic about his team going forward due to his strong, young core of underclassmen.

“Robbie Jimenez was our second leading scorer, while Storm Cook was our leading scorer as a sophomore,” he said. “Jordan Gaines, one of the best and most versatile players in the league, will be a junior. We take two huge hits in losing Bryce and Nate, but the guys who are returning are proven and hungry for not getting quite as far as we wanted to this year. We have a couple of key recruits coming in. We’ve got a local kid, Bo Ludwig, from Penn, Joe Andershock from Marquette Catholic and Ian Kindig. We’ve also got some transfers that we are still trying to get finalized. As always, we want to build around the returning core and add to that. The best recruits we can have are the improved returners coming back this fall.”

The conference recognized the outstanding play of many of the Saints’ players at the end of the season. Cook was named to the All-Conference First Team while Crosen earned All-Conference Second Team honors. Jimenez was given an All-Conference Team honorable mention. Next year, Holy Cross is looking to build off of the momentum they have built with their past two seasons, which both included exciting conference tournament runs. They hope to have the chance to compete for a national championship.

McBride demonstrated the difference between his short-term goals and longer-term destinations. The chemistry and practice-based short-term goals are meant to guide the team to new heights like playing in the national tournament or winning the conference.

“We want to get to the national tournament, which means that we have to compete for and win a conference championship. If we do that, we are in the national tournament. The most important goals are — as cliche as it sounds — that we are working every day in the offseason, preseason and season to get a little bit better, stronger, more skilled and tighter as a group. … We already achieved some of those destination goals this year by breaking the school record for wins and by advancing in the conference tournament.”

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