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McBride speaks on program’s first trip to National Tournament

| Friday, May 15, 2020

The Holy Cross men’s basketball team recorded arguably their best season in program history. The Saints finished the regular season 25-5 and with a 20-2 record in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, closing out the regular season with a 14-game winning streak. They tied for the number one spot in the conference and were awarded their first ever automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. 

After scratching by with a win in the first round of the tournament, it was announced that the remaining games would be cancelled due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saints head coach Mike McBride said he knew it would be a special year when his team first slipped into the national rankings.

“We had just gotten nationally ranked. The national poll came out in the morning, and then that night, we played all Olivet Nazarene who was leading, at the time, leading our conference, and I think they were ranked in the top five, at least top 10, in the nation,” McBride said. “And so we get ranked in the morning and then we go out that night and validated it, with a big win over Olivet Nazarene, and I think then I knew we had a group that could do it — that it wasn’t going to rest on an accomplishment.”

The Saints finished the season ranked first in the country in scoring defense (63.7 points per game allowed), fifth in total defensive rebounds per game (30.7) and ninth in field goal percentage defense (40.8%). They ended the season ranked 10th in the final NAIA national poll. Coach McBride was also awarded the NAIA Coach of the Year award, the second time ever a CCAC coach has received the distinction.

Senior forward Larenzo Moore was named to the CCAC All-Conference First Team and honored as an NAIA All-American, the first time a player has received the All-American distinction in program history. Senior guard Robby Jimenez earned CCAC All-Conference Second Team and junior guard Jordan Gaines received All-Conference Honorable Mention.

McBride commended on his seniors’ contributions and legacy.

“Robby Jimenez was a four-year guy who literally gave everything he had, mentally, emotionally and physically to the program for four years — just poured himself into it,” McBride said. “[He] developed, not only into a great player, but a great leader; his two fellow seniors, [forward] Parker Sims and Larenzo Moore, did the same during their time.”

During McBride’s seven seasons with the Saints, the team has produced 19 players named to the CCAC All-Academic Team, 14 have earned CCAC All-Conference honors and three individuals have been named NAIA Scholar-Athletes. 

When McBride was asked if any value was lost not being able to close out his season with his team, but still being named coach of the year, he said there was not.

“I don’t think it takes away from the value because I think that award … says Coach of the Year, but it’s really a team award,” he said. “It’s a reflection of our entire team, players, staff, support staff everyone involved in the program, administration, everyone was aligned and moving in the same direction. And you have to have that to have a championship team so. And then, I think it recognizes what we did over the course of the entire season, not just in terms of getting to the national tournament but in winning a championship and having, over the duration, a high level of play and performance, which again is a result of a total team effort — not just a coach or a certain player.”

The Saints will never know if they would have won a national title or not in 2020. Nevertheless, McBride said their goals heading into next season remain the same. 

“If we can get into the top three or four of our conference, then we can legitimately win it,” McBride said. “And we can make a case to get to the national tournament. So that’s always the immediacy of being in the top three or four of a 15-team league. That goal remains the same. We’re going to have a lot of work and a lot of development, and a lot of players are going to have to fulfill a higher role to get there. But the goal remains the same to get to the top part of the league and advanced to the national tournament.”

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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