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Saints lose two close games on the road

The Holy Cross men’s and women’s basketball teams went on the road to face Roosevelt University as they resumed conference play on Wednesday.

The women’s team tipped off at 6:30 pm, and though Roosevelt won the opening, it was the Saints who earned the first points of the game, courtesy of a layup by sophomore forward Grace Adams. The Saints dominated the first five minutes of action, building up a 14-4 lead thanks in part to Adams and a three-point bucket by junior guard Lauren Morris.

The last five minutes of the first quarter belonged to the Lakers, as the Saints went 3:51 without hitting a shot. The cold stretch allowed the Lakers to score 16 unanswered points. Luckily for the Saints, senior guard Jayda Miller hit a three with seven seconds left to make it a one-point game going into the second.

The second quarter saw an inverse of the first, with the Lakers building an eight-point lead with 4:49 left in the quarter. However, sophomore guard Jordyn Smith contributed five points in a 10-2 Saints run that took the Saints into the half down one.

The third quarter continued the incredibly close contest with the lead changing five times in the third alone. Whereas previous quarters saw drastic swings, the third quarter spread peaked at a five-point Roosevelt lead, which the Saints were quickly able to erase.

As the quarter wound down to the final minute, with the Saints down one, freshman forward Carly Spalding stepped to the line and hit both her shots. Roosevelt responded with a layup in the final 20 seconds. But Miller was able to knock down a three that gave the Saints a two-point lead heading into the final quarter.

The Lakers quickly took back the lead from the Saints at 8:48, and they held onto it until 3:26 when Smith hit one of her two free throws, tying the game at 74-74.

Roosevelt quickly drove for a layup to re-establish a four-point lead. However, Smith answered the bell once again, and she would go on to score 11 of the Saints’ last 13 points, keeping them in the game.

Ultimately, it would not be enough, as an intentional foul by Miller would send Roosevelt to the free throw line trailing by one. Roosevelt made both shots, enough to finish off a 90-87 win.

The road loss sends the Saints back below .500 to 5-6 overall with a 2-3 conference record. It also snaps a three-game win streak and a five-game win streak against the Lakers.

Holy Cross will look to get back to .500 against Saint Mary’s on Dec. 6 at 6:00 pm. Historically, the Saints have performed well against Saint Mary’s, winning both contests by an average margin of 13 points.

Just like the women’s team, the men’s team earned the first two points despite Roosevelt winning the opening tip. The opening minutes saw an incredibly completive, back-and-forth game, with four different ties. Holy Cross slowly began to build out a lead, as the two teams continued to trade buckets well into the first 12 minutes of the game.

With the Saints leading 21-17, senior forward Mick Sullivan made a layup, assisted sophomore guard Nash Hostetler’s jump shot and got a second layup, giving the Saints a 27-19 lead.

The Lakers were able to cut the Saints’ lead to three. But Sullivan continued his stellar play and helped the Saints maintain their eight-point lead going into the half.

The second half opened with Roosevelt beginning to chip away at the Saints’ eight-point lead until freshman Tommy Snyder hit two free throw attempts. Hostetler added to the lead with a three-point lead, building the Saints’ lead to a game-high of 11 points.

It was here where the Lakers went on a 14-0 run fueled by two Saints turnovers, a foul and a missed three-point attempt, giving the Lakers a three-point lead with 15:42 left in the game.

The Saints battled to reclaim the lead and were able to do so, thanks to senior guard Beau Ludwick’s three and Snyder’s layup. But that would be the last time they had a lead in the game.

The Saints once again allowed the Lakers to go on a game-changing run thanks to two missed threes, two missed field goals and a turnover. Thanks to the Lakers 11-2 run, the Saints now trailed the Lakers by eight with 6:50 left in the game.

The Saints went on a 10-2 run themselves, with Sullivan scoring six of the team’s points. Now tied for the sixth time at 64-64 with 2:20 remaining. But the Saints only scored three points the rest of the way, with Ludwick hitting a free throw and freshman Drew Adzia hitting two of his own.

The Lakers were able to score five points and put the game away when the Lakers’ Ayo Ajiboye stole the ball from Hostetler. Roosevelt won by a 69-67 final.

The Saints now fall to 3-7 on the season and 1-4 in conference play. They will look to turn things around on Dec. 7, when they face out-of-conference foe Siena Heights University on the road.

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Holy Cross women’s basketball rallies to beat Governors State

Wednesday night, the Holy Cross women’s basketball team came into their game against Governors State looking to end both a three-game losing streak and a two-game conference losing streak. Courtesy of a late rally, the Saints managed to pull off the feat, winning 65-57.

In the 10 previous meetings, the two teams have split the series, with the Saints winning three of the last five.

The game began with Governors State winning the opening tip and making a jump shot on their first possession. A Holy Cross turnover allowed Governors State to open up a quick 4-0 lead.

The Saints rallied, with freshman Carly Spradling, forcing a block and rebounding, which turned into points at the other end.

The Saints scored 10 straight and jumped out to a 10-4 lead. After the two teams traded baskets, Saints led at the end of the quarter, 13-8

Governors State opened the second quarter making consecutive three-pointers, thanks to their offensive rebounding allowing them second chance opportunities. Freshman guard Audrey Tallent sank a jump shot, putting the Saints back up, 15-14 with 7:37 left in the second.

Governors State rallied to retake the lead. However, sophomore guard Anna Tallent’s three-ball knotted the score once more.

The two teams traded baskets, but Governor State scored three points in the last 14 seconds putting the Saints down 29-26 at the half.

To start the third quarter, the Jaguars built up a seven-point lead. Saints sophomore forward Grace Adams put forth a big individual effort to close the deficit. First, she cut the lead to five with a trip to the foul line. Then, Adams made a steal that turned into Holy Cross points the other way. The sophomore punctuated the run with a jump shot to bring the Saints within one.

The Jaguars responded with a 13-4 run, taking a 48-38 lead with 50 seconds left in the third. Clutch three-point shots from senior guard Jayda Miller and junior Neva Longhofer made it a 50-44 game heading into the fourth quarter.

Trailing by six with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter, two poor Jaguar fouls allowed sophmore Jordyn Smith and Spalding to get the Saints within two.

A Miller jump shot tied the game and forced the visitors to call a timeout. The timeout did little to help, however, as the Jaguars fizzled out down the stretch. Governors State scored just five points in the last five minutes. The Saints, meanwhile, scored 13 to win 65-57.

The win broke the Saints’ three-game losing streak and provided them with their first conference win. The win propelled the Saints from the conference basement and into eighth, where they trail Judson by half a game. The Saints are now two games behind first-place Saint Francis.

By beating Governors State, the Saints have closed their first home stand 2-4 (1-2). The Saints now head on the road for three games, including two conference clashes. The Saints return to McKenna Arena on Dec. 6, when they face the Saint Mary’s Belles at 6 p.m.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.

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Sports

Saints drop two games, fall to 2-5

Holy Cross Saints women’s basketball played a second straight tough opponent to open up conference play and, subsequently, dropped to 0-2 in CCAC play. The Saints battled defending conference regular season champion, Saint Xavier, and kept it close early. However, the Cougars used a big third quarter to pull away and win 83-64.

Saint Xavier finished 21-1 in CCAC play last season and finished as the tournament runner ups. They entered the contest receiving votes in the national polls, the second straight opponent of such stature for the Saints. The performance was certainly an improvement from Holy Cross’s conference opener, an 85-37 defeat to Indiana University South Bend.

On Saturday, sophomore guard Jordyn Smith led the Saints with 14 points while also chipping in four rebounds and two assists.  The game got off to a low-scoring grind of a start. The Saints didn’t score for the first 4 minutes and 41 seconds, missing their first four shots and turning the ball over three times. However, the Cougars only opened up a 5-0 lead in that slow start, keeping Holy Cross within reach. Over the final 4:20 of the quarter, the Saints allowed just three points and ripped off a 9-0 run, entering the break down just 12-11.

Saint Xavier scored the final three points of the first quarter and then dominated the start of the second, totaling 16-2 run to open up a 25-13 advantage. The Saints got back within four points on a couple of occasions, but they never clawed all the way back. Smith scored the Saints’ final five points to pull within 38-30 at halftime.

Down just eight, the Saints had their eyes on a stunning upset. But Saint Xavier outscored the hosts 25-14 in the third quarter to seize control. Spurts of five, six and eight straight points on different occasions sparked the Cougars during the stretch. Smith’s triple at the end of the period cut the deficit to 19 points at 63-44. 

The result was virtually resolved entering the final ten minutes, and the two squads battled to a fourth-quarter stalemate with 20 points apiece. The Saints never got closer than 17 points. They finished the game shooting 35.2% as a team and were just 2-15 from three-point range.

Four Saints did finish in double digits for scoring, with freshman guard Audrey Tallent matching Smith’s 14 points. Sophomore forward Grace Adams added 13. And junior forward Neva Longhofer chipped in with 11 points. However, it was not enough to counter a scorching 56.1% shooting effort by the Cougars. Saint Xavier’s Alyssa Streeter led all scorers with 22 points on 10-14 shooting.

Saints fall in non-conference battle

Looking to break a two-game skid, the Saints couldn’t quite get on the right side of the result in their non-conference battle with Spring Arbor. Playing at home, the Saints got big efforts from Smith and Adams, who combined for 44 points. Adams added 11 rebounds for the double-double.

However, only one other player had more than seven points, and the top-heavy effort wasn’t enough. While the third quarter ended Holy Cross’s hopes in Saturday’s contest, on Monday evening, it was the second quarter. The Saints led 13-12 after ten minutes, but they shot 20% in the second quarter and were outscored 24-13. 

In the third quarter, the Saints heated up, but they couldn’t seriously close the gap. They got within six at 55-49, but Spring Arbor’s Alana Nelson dropped in four straight to nudge their lead back to ten points. The next time the Saints were that close was after pair of free throws from Adams with 23 seconds to go to make it 77-72 in favor of the visitors.

Spring Arbor closed it out for the 79-72 win, improving to 4-0. Holy Cross fell to 2-5. They’ll look to improve on that mark against Governors State on Wednesday night in a conference game.

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Sports

Holy Cross men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare for a new season

The Holy Cross women’s basketball team went 15-15 overall (10-12 in conference play) last season. They were just one win shy of setting a win’s total record in program history. The goal for this season?

“[Best season in program history], that is the minimum expectation,” said head coach Tom Robbins. “One more win, and we would have had it last year, and we have most of our players back, and the freshmen we are adding, they move us forward.” 

Robbins will have a smaller than usual team this year, just ten players in total. However, the quality of his squad is what gives Robbins his confidence. He does admit that the lack of depth is a potential weakness, though.

“We keeps us [from our goals] is injury… we do not have a huge margin for error, we are going to sustain injuries like anybody does, but if we have any long-term, multiple game injuries out of our players, that is going to be hard for us to overcome.”

Though the squad has just one senior in guard Jayda Miller, junior guard Lauren Morris and junior forward Neva Longhofer have also stepped up and have helped prepare the team during the offseason. 

The Saints will look to spread the floor with their shooters like Morris and Miller. Then, they will use a two-man game down low, utilizing athletic guards who can attack the rim, with bigs crashing the boards for rebounds. All in all, Robbins would like to shoot from the two more often than from range.

“I like a 2/3 to 1/3 balance between twos and threes… that’s a little more conservative than what a lot of the NAIA has been trending toward; a lot more teams are 50-50 these days.”

Robbins is incredibly excited about his freshman players. Elizabeth Edmonds, a starting-caliber player, occupies the center potion that Sara White left vacant. Audrey Tallent is an incredibly dynamic freshman guard. And sophomore guard Jordyn Smith, who is an incredible passer, should see starter minutes as well. 

Defensively, the team will look to clog passing lanes in the half-court and trap the opposition in a full-court defense. The Saints will then try to funnel the opposition into mid-range shots. Ideally, they will force them to shoot off the dribble late into the shot clock. 

Instrumental to that will be Grace Adams, a sophomore forward whom Robbins said can 1-5. Robbins thought back to last year when the Saints won a game by holding the opposing team to zero points for about six straight minutes in the fourth quarter. Adams was the primary reason for their dominance.

“They thought the best thing to do was take guard and go right at her because our matchups, Grace ended up happening to guard [their lead player], and they thought that was their advantage, and Grace shut her down every single time.” 

In contrast to the women’s team, the Holy Cross men’s basketball team took a bit of a step back last season. The men’s team went 13-17 overall with an 8-14 conference record. For a team that had made the NAIA National Tournament the last two seasons, last season was disappointing.

Nevertheless, head coach Mike McBride is confident his team can return to their winning ways. For McBride, that means focusing on the little things.

“To be honest, we talk very little about [outcome-based goals] because [they] are always a byproduct of what you are doing day in and day out, so our expectation is that we are growing closer and more unified as a team daily, that our level of intensity and execution rises daily and if we do that then those outcome-based expectations and goals become a byproduct of our daily improvements.” 

Helping to improve the team every day are senior leaders Jalen Martin, Beau Ludwick and Mick Sullivan.

A 6’4” forward, Martin missed most of the previous season due to injury, playing in only two games. Now that he is healthy again, McBride expects him to be a significant part of the Saint’s defense. 

“[Jaylen] has great length, so we think he can be a versatile defender, we think he can guard inside and out, he has really improved skill-wise, we think he has become a much-improved shooter, so that is a dynamic we really need obviously with the loss of Ryan Black,” McBride said.

The Saints will play a traditional man-to-man defense, with adjustments as needed. They’ll tend to avoid switching defenders, preferring the pre-game matchups. Martin’s ability to guard one through five brings a unique skill set to the Saints, who struggled defensively last season.

Ludwick, a 6’2” guard, is expected to be another key defensive player. His skill set allows him to draw top perimeter shooting assignments night in and night out.

“He is great one-on-one on the ball, and he has as good a vision and instinct off the ball as anybody we have, so we think he can really be outstanding,” McBride said.  

Sullivan, the team’s starting center, is once again expected to be a force for the team on offense. He will feature in the low post, looking to dominate the paint, grab rebounds and find shooters on the outside when he inevitably draws multiple defenders. McBride said that having Sullivan back and healthy, along with the additions of freshmen forwards Tommy Snyder and Joe Kelly, has led to a new strategy for the team offensively. 

“We have the guys we think that can make those, but we do want to play with that inside-out mentality. We are really emphasizing playing inside, attacking the paint both with post-play, with cutting, and with driving, so I think having a much more inside-dominated approach is maybe a little different than what we had last year,” McBride said. 

The seniors are certainly not alone in guiding the team. Last year’s standout freshmen, Justin O’Neal and Nash Hostetler are coming off sensational seasons. And McBride only expects them to improve. 

“We expect a lot out of those two in terms of production and what they do and bring to the game each night… we also think they both of these guys have great leadership potential, and I do not want to wait until they are senior for that to emerge,” McBride said.

The women’s team will begin their season on the road in Huntington Indiana when they face Huntington University. Tipoff is at 1 p.m. Friday. The men will have a home opener to start the season when they play host to East-West University Monday at 6 p.m.