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Lacking height, Holy Cross team banking on skills

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It’s nice having a go-to star player, but give Paul Gilvary a diverse group of guys who can all score a little and he’ll take that any season.

“I think that’s better,” the Holy Cross boys’ basketball coach said. “I think that’s harder to defend. Unless you have that exceptional guy that can’t be stopped, I think it’s better to have balance.”

Balance might be the Knights’ buzz word this season. Five seniors return from a team that went to the CHSAA Class AA intersectional semifinals last year and all of them can put the ball in the basket.

Marquise Moore and Will Davis can hit from the outside or slash to the basket. Mairega Clarke, an athletic, 6-foot-5 forward, is a force down low and Anthony Libroia and Ed Roscigno are both threats from the perimeter.

“I can see from game to game a different guy leading us in scoring,” Gilvary said. “I would expect to regularly have four or five guys in double figures every game.”

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be one of those five either. Osaze Chase-Small, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, could be in store for a breakout season and juniors Terrell Williams (6-1), Akil Spruill (5-11) and Ryan Wilson (6-3) all gained experience last year on the varsity. Athletic sophomore Joshua Wallace, who plays defensive back on the school’s football team, is also expected to make an impact.

“At this time of year he considers himself a basketball-first guy,” Gilvary joked. “In September and October, I’m not sure what his answer would be. But he’s a very talented basketball player.”

Holy Cross will be versatile and unselfish on offense with a number of different weapons. What the Knights won’t be is very tall. Clarke is the team’s tallest player and its two best rebounders from last year are playing Division I college basketball right now — Evan Conti at Quinnipiac and Marcus Hopper at Siena.

“Through the scrimmage season, when anybody asks me how we’re doing, I say the same thing: ‘We’re fine until the other team misses — and then it’s an adventure,’” Gilvary said. “Again, it’s gotta be a team effort. We’re not gonna have that one guy getting 10 rebounds a game. We’re gonna need a lot of guys to get five and six.”

The Knights are going to have to make up in fundamentals what they lack in height.

“When the shot goes up, you have to box out, grab it as quickly as possible and get it up the court,” Davis said, “because we’re small.”

Small, but experienced. Outside of Christ the King and St. Raymond, no team in the league has as many key players back — and Cross has as much, if not more, than both of those title favorites. So there is optimism in Flushing.

“I think if we play as well as we can, we can go far,” Moore said.

Gilvary is enjoying this group — not so much because of that balance, but the way it has manifested itself.

“The best qualities they have is they work very hard, they play very hard and they’re very unselfish,” the longtime coach said. “It’s a real team effort.”

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