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Rice Escapes Holy Cross Hairs

Wednesday's CHSAA Semifinal game between Holy Cross and the Rice Raiders was a contrast of styles.
The Raiders rely on pressure defense while the Knights of Holy Cross utilize perimeter shooting. But one team's strategy would go horribly wrong. Shooting a dismal 7 for 43 in the first three quarters, the Knights would fall one shot short and Rice would advance, 55-52, into the championship round.
The Raiders would start off with a 4-0 run led by Emmanuel Andujar (9 points) but back-to-back threes by Anthony Libroia (17 points) and Marcus Hopper (7 points) seemed to put Holy Cross back into the driver's seat. The Knights would pull ahead 9-6 but then the Knights perimeter shooting tanked. Buckets by Jermaine Sanders (32 points) as the first quarter closed, Rice regained the lead, 17-13.
Rice's defense kept the normally prolific Evan Conti (14 points) scoreless in the first quarter and perimeter shots by Melvin Johnson (9 points), extended the Raiders lead to 9 points midway through the second quarter. A lead which they maintained at the half.
Down 28-19 at the start of the third quarter, Conti and Marquise Moore would close the gap as the Knights but their shooting woes continued. With 2:40 left in the third a Sanders 3-ball bumped the Raiders lead to 12 points and by the end of the quarter, Holy Cross was in a 42-27 deficit.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights' patented perimeter shooting began to return. Shooting collectively 8 for 12, Holy Cross began to inch closer. Sparked by a jumper from Conti and buoyed by a trey from Will Davis (6 points), the Knights were only down 47-41 with 2:53 left in regulation.
Time was winding down but the Knights were finally heating up. With 53.8 seconds remaining, back-to-back-to-back three-balls by Libroia would pull the Knights to within a point of the lead with 35.6 ticks on the clock. Davis would then get a steal on the inbound pass from Rice but step out of bounds with 33 seconds left. As the time was quickly expiring, the Knights were force to foul. Pretty solid free-throw shooting by the Raiders seemed to all but secure the win until Sanders went one of two late. Down by four points, Libroia went coast-to-coast, cutting the Raiders lead to 2 points with 8.2 seconds in regulation. The Knights would foul Sanders again and again the Cincinnati-bound shooting guard would go 1 for 2. Going for the tie, Libroia would take a three which rimmed out as time expired.
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