ST. MONICA — Crossroads held off a surging St. Monica, 61-60, Thursday night to win the St. Monica Tip Off Invitational, but the outcome was far from clear as the buzzer sounded.
Down by a point with less than a second remaining, St. Monica’s Troy Whiteto tipped in what could have been a game winner, sending his teammates into celebration before a referee waved it off giving Crossroads the win and the tournament championship.
Crossroads’ Luke Shmuger and Gysi Williams were named co-MVPs. The win improves Crossroads to 4-0. St. Monica is now 3-1.
“This is a testament to our team to pull this win out,” Crossroads head coach Kevin Jackson said. “This was a win against a quality team.
“This is a good way to start the season.”
The fact that the St. Monica Mariners were still in the game was a surprise given they trailed by as many as 16 points early in the second half. The Mariners began to really cut into the lead once Crossroads forward Williams injured his leg late in the third quarter with the Roadrunners up 45-36.
With the senior playmaker off the floor, St. Monica steadily chipped away at the lead behind the play of Whiteto and Brandon Hualde, who finished the night with 16 and 18 points respectively. The pair made a series of clutch shots midway through the fourth quarter, eventually helping St. Monica to its first lead of the game at 49-48 with nearly 6 minutes left in the final period.
St. Monica first-year head coach Khi-min Jung said that Williams’ departure helped give the Mariners a window to make up ground, but said the credit goes to his players for battling back in the tournament final.
The teams exchanged baskets with neither side being able to build any more than a 3-point lead during the quarter. Following a made basket, St. Monica whittled the lead down to 1 with 5 seconds left in the game.
On the ensuing Crossroads’ inbounds play, Shmuger bobbled the ball out of bounds giving St. Monica one last chance with .2 seconds left that was ultimately waved off, ending the contest.
“I never felt better,” Shmuger said. “[St. Monica] is a good team, they work really hard.”
Crossroads’ Jackson said that despite being an early-season matchup, the game had a playoff atmosphere complete with a packed, raucous gym. He added that when St. Monica took a late lead he feared his team was “down and out.”
“I was impressed by the way [St. Monica] came out [in the second half],” he said. “That was quite a run they made.”