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Lacking marquee talent, Holy Cross continues to win

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Without that one marquee star, Holy Cross has emerged as a legit CHSAA Class AA contender because of its depth.

Marquise Moore, the closest the Knights have to such a player, missed six games with a broken toe and Cross won all six times without the senior. On Friday night, another standout, senior Will Davis, missed much of the Queens school’s contest with Xaverian because of the flu, yet it cruised anyway to a 58-46 basketball victory anyway.

“We don’t look at one person,” senior guard Anthony Libroia said. “Everybody on our team can score.”

While that may be true, Moore put on quite a show in the second half. The 6-foot-2 senior scored 21 of his game-high 25 points after the break and did a fine job on Xaverian star Brian Bernardi. Libroia added 15 points and six assists and limited Clippers point guard Dillon Burns to just two points, a season low for the C.W. Post-bound senior.

“When he passed the ball, I tried to deny him,” Libroia said. “He’s their whole offense. Without him, there’s no engine.”

Moore was quiet in the first half, like his teammates. He had just four points and was playing conservatively against Xaverian’s zone. Cross Coach Paul Gilvary demanded his team attack out of the gate in the third quarter, and Moore led the charge.

Instead of settling for long jump shots, the Knights (12-2, 3-0 ‘AA’) worked inside out, getting easy baskets in the paint and open medium-range jumpers. Moore’s traditional three-point play started a 13-1 run fellow senior Mairega Clarke capped with his own three-point play.

When Xaverian got within three early in the fourth quarter, following a George Lambert running one-hander, Moore responded with three straight baskets to put the game out of reach for the Clippers.

“He does so many things to help us win — that’s why we missed him so much when he was out,” Gilvary said.

Xaverian (8-4, 2-3) has hit a bit of a slide, having dropped three straight league contests to Cross, Molloy and Christ the King. Unlike Jan. 10’s loss to Molloy, Clippers Coach Jack Alesi didn’t feel his team played particularly poorly. It wasn’t as sharp as he would’ve liked it to be, particularly on the defensive end in the second half when it lost Moore far too often.

More disconcerting is the lack of scoring depth. Bernardi scored the 20 points, but without Burns doing much, points were hard to come by.

“They got to pick up the pace,” Alesi said of Xaverian’s supporting cast. “It’s not the Brian and Dillon show.”

The win sets up Cross for a big week, culminating with the Battle of the Boulevard rival St. Francis Prep Friday night. It’s an important stretch for the Knights to continue to make a name for themselves.

Unlike CK, Cardinal Hayes and St. Raymond, Cross doesn’t feel like it is being talked about as a possible title contender. Yet its 12-2 record, balanced scoring and senior-heavy squad says maybe it should be.

“We often get overlooked, but it gives us motivation to play better, play smarter, play harder,” Moore said. “We should get more respect. But that’s how it is. We’re gonna keep playing hard and prove people wrong.”

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