Brother Martin rides late run to victory _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Brother Martin's Miles Francis, center, tries to gain control of the ball against Holy Cross on Wednesday.

Brother Martin is king of Gentilly — at least until next season.

Unfazed by a second-half equalizer, the Crusaders (8-1-4, 4-0-2 in Division I, District 9) netted a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes to beat Catholic League and neighborhood rival Holy Cross 3-1 in the “Battle of Gentilly” at Farley Field on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s always significant between these two programs,” said Brother Martin coach Stephen McAnespie of the series, which drew a 1-1 tie in the first game in December. “Obviously, we knew what kind of challenge they posed.

“They’re a tough team to break down because they get a lot of bodies behind the ball and defend it very well. So, you have to find ways of getting around them and getting numbers in certain positions to attack.”

Eighteen minutes in, the Crusaders collapsed the Tigers’ back line.

Forward Miles Francis flashed some dizzying footwork on the right wing, wedging space between him and the defender.

“(Coach) always tells me to get at my defender, so I megged him, turned him around and spotted Zach (Ward) standing in the box alone,” said Francis, who registered two assists. “He lined up a left-footed shot and made a beautiful finish.”

Advantage, Brother Martin. Until the 43rd minute.

Holy Cross’ Alec LaFrance navigated the scrum inside the box before tapping in a 1-1 equalizer for the Tigers (1-9-4, 0-2-1).

“After that, we moved a few pieces around,” said McAnespie.

“At that time we were sitting a bit deep, so I pushed a few guys up forward more that seemed to turn the tide for us as far as allowing us to be more aggressive and allowing us to put pressure on their backline.”

Did it.

The Crusaders capped the match with 11 attempts from that point alone — finishing with a robust 18 shots total — two of which pierced the posts and ended the stalemate, sealing a victory for Brother Martin.

Ward tricked his defender, launching a cross into the box that forward Austin Bourgeois headed in to inch them ahead 2-1.

Minutes later, Bailey Nuss tucked away the third and final Crusaders goal.

“The second half,” said Francis of the difference in the match.

“The last couple of matches we were sort of flat-lining in the second half, allowing teams to get back in and make plays. But (Wednesday), we created chances, stayed aggressive and put two in the back of the net to finally finish strong. We have great leaders on this team from top to bottom. So, we don’t put our heads down.”