Saints fight through adversity to make postseason
Thomas Zwiller | Friday, May 19, 2023
The Holy Cross men’s basketball team started their season precisely like head coach Mike McBride wanted. They opened the year with a decisive home win against East-West University. The team won 78-58 and breakout freshman star Tommy Snyder shot 12-19 with 13 boards in his debut. But the Saints would struggle mightily in their next five games. They lost all five of them, including their first three conference contests of the season.
“We hit conference play early, and we played two of the best teams in the league, and so it was a reality check for us, something that we probably needed,” McBride said.
The men’s team finally broke out of their slump, winning back-to-back against Judson and Andrews University. But the Saints continued to sputter and stall out. A blowout loss to Hunting University by 31 and a maddening defeat against Roosevelt University saw them finish the semester at a pedestrian 4-8 mark.
Over the winter break, however, the Saints found their groove. They strung together a five-game win streak and won six of seven from Dec. 17 to Jan. 14. The streak included a win on the road against Saint Xavier University, one of the best teams in the conference. Coach McBride felt that the Saint Xavier win was pivotal for the team.
”It proved to us that that we could compete with the best teams in the league,” McBride said.
That stretch revived the Saints’ hopes of making the conference playoffs. After a road loss against Calumet, the Holy Cross faithful were treated to two of the best games of the season at McKenna Arena. The Saints knocked off the No. 1 team in the conference, beating Olivet Nazarene 83-72. And though they lost the next game to Roosevelt in double OT, the team seemed to have come into top form down the stretch.
However, the lighting in the bottle the Saints captured in January seemed to leak out in February. The team lost four straight conference games, including a crucial game against Governors State, to fall back to 11-14.
Now with a postseason trip seeming unlikely, the Saints worked to save their season with a double-overtime home win against Saint Ambrose and a senior night thrashing of East-West University. After wrapping up their season with an 87-78 win over Trinity International University, Holy Cross had done just enough to sneak into the conference tournament.
The Saint’s first-round opponent would be Olivet Nazarene University, whom they had defeated less than a month earlier. Despite the team’s best efforts, they came up short against the Tigers, losing 88-64. McBride still felt the team had met its goal for the season.
“It was a rocky process because we were so young, and there were so many new guys, so it took a while for that to click. We were by far playing our best basketball of the year towards the end and were rewarded with a berth into the conference tournament,” McBride said.