Entering the season with 10 new players on the roster, Troy Green and Javon Antonio weren’t just the best choices to be the new leaders for East St. John’s boys basketball team, they were the only choices.
The duo helped the Wildcats build an early lead and hold on late to take down the host school 47-38 in the semifinals of the Holy Cross Basketball Classic on Monday night.
East St. John (7-7) will play defending Holy Cross Tournament champion Riverside, which beat East Ascension 64-54, in the title game at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“Those two guys have been here, and everyone else is pretty much new to the team,” East St. John coach Yussef Jasmine said. “They know what they need to do, and they are doing a good job of being vocal and telling people where they need to be.”
Green finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Antonio had 14 points and seven rebounds.
Green said it has taken some time for him and Antonio to grow into their new roles, but it has become easier for them as the season has progressed.
“Coach put me and Javon up front, and it’s just on us to carry the load,” Green said. “We’re both about 6-foot-4, so we are able to get rebounds and push it in transition, which makes us hard to stop for a lot of teams.”
Holy Cross (8-8) lost leading scorer Xavian McKay early after the senior picked up two fouls in the first two minutes, which helped put the Tigers in a 19-7 hole early in the second quarter. It looked like the Wildcats were poised to run away with things, but the hot shooting of guard Noah Sciambra got Holy Cross back in the game.
The senior made three consecutive 3-pointers to help cut the Tigers’ deficit to 21-16, but East St. John settled down on the defensive end and took a 26-20 lead into halftime.
Sciambra led the Tigers with 12 points and four rebounds, including 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point distance.
“We just didn’t follow the game plan,” Holy Cross coach Mister Kirkwood said. “We were in the game, then we started shooting the ball after one pass and those are the things that hurt us.”
Holy Cross carried its hot shooting into the second half and opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run, which ended with a layup by Albion Ford that gave the Tigers their first lead at 30-28 with 4:20 left in the third.
From that point, East St. John put the clamps on defensively, holding Holy Cross to four points over the next 11 minutes. The Wildcats’ lead ballooned to 44-34 before McKay broke the Holy Cross scoring drought with a midrange jumper with under a minute left in the game.