Sophomore Xavian McKay got Holy Cross coach Mister Kirkwood’s message and made two “huge” plays at a key juncture of Friday night’s 53-49 Tigers’ win over Jesuit at the Holy Cross gym.
With the score tied 42-42 in the final 90 seconds, Jesuit’s Foster Moreau had his driving 6-footer blocked by the Tigers’ Greg White-Pittman. The ball flew out to the right sideline about free-throw line high to McKay. He grabbed it, dribbled through a recovering Jesuit defense, cut across the lane at his own basket and flipped in a layup for a 44-42 Holy Cross lead with 1:12 left.
McKay stole the ball on Jesuit’s next possession, drove three quarters of the court and hit another hard driving layup for a 46-42 lead with 45.7 seconds remaining.
A Jesuit charge led to another Holy Cross possession and two free throws by White-Pittman, who led all scorers with 29 points. The Tigers made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 44 seconds to hold the lead.
The biggest free throws might have been the pair senior Trey Brister made with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Jesuit closed the lead 51-49 on a 3-pointer by Trey Laforge with 3.8 seconds left. The Jays triple-teamed White-Pittman on the inbound play, and Brister sprinted to the baseline corner, secured the pass and was fouled with 2.1 seconds remaining. He made his only two points, sinking both free throws.
Kirkwood said the District 9-5A victory was “huge” for Holy Cross (14-6, 2-1).
“We beat a really good team that played a very good game,” he said.
Brister “is one of our best shooters, one of our better free-throw shooters,” Kirkwood added.
Jesuit (13-8, 1-2) had a 25-18 halftime lead but saw it’s rugged man-to-man defense ripped by White-Pittman in the third quarter. The 6-foot-3 senior’s step-back jumpers off dribble drives produced 11 points in the quarter. White-Pittman scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half.
A pull-up jumper from 10-feet and a free throw by White-Pittman tied the score at 35 on Holy Cross’ first possession of the third quarter. It was the first time since the game’s first four minutes that Jesuit had not led. Jesuit had led by nine, 31-22, with four minutes left in the third.
“I tell my players to keep fighting no matter what the situation, no matter what the time of the game.” Kirkwood said moments after emerging from a leap into the frenzied Holy Cross student section. “I reminded them to keep digging. The two plays (by McKay) were huge.”
Jesuit continued to show its offensive rebounding prowess, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds while holding a 35-20 rebound advantage. That was offset by 15 Jays’ turnovers and Holy Cross’ 25 free throw attempts to the Jays’ seven.
“We really did a lot of things well tonight,” said Jesuit coach Chris Jennings. “They just made some big plays at key times.
“We played pretty good . . . did a good job on defense and rebounded well. We had opportunities, but they made big plays and big shots.”