David Cross still isn’t sure how he made the shot.
“How did that go in?’ Cross wondered about his off-balance, no-look layup while being fouled late in the fourth quarter of Bishop Eustace’s 52-45 victory over Paul VI on Saturday.
But the key to the Crusaders’ victory in the Olympic Conference National Division clash of Top 12 teams and fierce rivals was no mystery. Cross’ ball-handling, poise, and scoring made the difference in front of a large crowd in Bishop Eustace’s field house.
“He won the game for us,” senior swingman Mattia Morini said of Cross. “He kept us in it.”
Morini scored 10 and put the finishing touch on the emotional victory with a dunk, following by a loud yell of celebration in the direction of the Bishop Eustace student section.
Cross was a cooler customer. The junior guard scored 18 but probably made a bigger contribution in handling Paul VI’s tight man-to-man defense and getting his team into its offensive sets.
“He’s making the guys around him better,” coach Bob Falconiero said of Cross. “He’s been playing like that all year. It’s fun to watch.”
Sophomore forward Christian Tomasco added seven points with nine rebounds for Bishop Eustace (5-2, 2-1), the No. 12 team in the Inquirer Top 25.
Hartnell Haye and Jordany Pierre each scored 14 for No. 5 Paul VI (5-1, 2-1).
“They’re such a big rival for us,” Cross said of Paul VI. “That’s what makes this such a big win.”
Bishop Eustace was coming off 47-42 loss on Thursday night to No. 2 Camden in another Olympic National game.
“We didn’t want to lose two in a row in the conference,” Falconiero said.
Paul VI dominated play early, building an 18-8 lead after one quarter, as Pierre, a sophomore swingman, hit a pair of three-pointers and the Eagles got a few other baskets in transition.
“We had to slow them down,” Falconiero said. “We hit a couple baskets, got to the foul line and settled down.”
The second half was a taut battle, with four lead changes.
Tyshon Judge gave Paul VI a 45-42 lead with a driving hoop, but Cross tied the score at the 3:23 mark with a three-point play that defied explanation.
“I’m still not sure how I made that one,” Cross said. “I just kind of threw it up there.”
Cross went 5-for-6 from the foul line in the final three minutes, and Dan Swallow added two clutch free throws, as the Crusaders ended the game on a 10-0 run.
Morini’s dunk at the 0:05 mark was the exclamation point.
“After losing to Camden, we needed this,” Morini said.
Paul VI 18 7 12 8 – 45
Bishop Eustace 8 13 17 14 – 52
PVI: Tyshon Judge 7, Wisler Sanon 7, Hartnel Haye 14, Jordany Pierre 14, Andrew Harrell 3.