Night and day
Holy Cross caps remarkable turnaround with NCAA bid
Updated: Friday March 09, 2001 8:49 PM
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) -- With a sore Achilles' tendon that kept him out of practice all week, Josh Sankes said he felt like an old man in the Patriot League championship game.
Good thing for Holy Cross he played more like an All-American.
Sankes had 15 points and 17 rebounds Friday as the Crusaders earned the Patriot League's berth in the NCAA tournament by beating Navy 68-64 in overtime.
"I felt like an 80-year-old man playing out there. I could barely move at some times," said Sankes, who played 40 of 45 minutes in the game and was named MVP of the tournament.
"During the game, I felt like I was going to pass out. I was so tired. But I wanted to be in there."
Sankes scored nine points in the final 6:38 of regulation, helping Holy Cross winnow a seven-point deficit to 55-53 with 2:12 to go.
Jave Mead hit two free throws to tie it before Ryan Serravalle's left-handed scoop shot with 29 seconds left in regulation gave the Crusaders their first lead since halftime.
Robert Reeder made a short jumper for Navy (19-12, 9-4) to make it 57-all with 15 seconds left. Juan Pegues could have won it for Holy Cross (22-7, 11-2) in regulation, but his shot at the buzzer hit the bottom of the rim.
It was 59-59 when Serravalle hit a 3-pointer to give the Crusaders their first lead of the overtime. After Chris Williams sank two free throws and a layup, Serravalle hit another 3 to give Holy Cross the lead for good, 65-63, with 1:25 left.
But it was his shot at the end of regulation that evoked images of a famous Holy Cross alum, Bob Cousy.
"I think he would have liked it," said Serravalle, who finished with 17 points. "I hope he was watching. I hope he will follow us in the tournament."
Holy Cross, celebrating the 100th anniversary of its basketball program, won the NCAA championship in 1947 with Cousy and the NIT title with Tommy Heinsohn in '54, when that was the nation's top tournament.
But the school hasn't won a game in either tournament since the 1981 NIT -- going 0-4 in the NCAAs since 1956.
Last year, the Crusaders won only eight games. But with Friday's win, they matched the biggest turnaround -- 12 wins -- in school history.
"They've come so far in such a short period of time," said Ralph Willard, who has already been named the Patriot League's coach of the year. "They did it with heart. They did it with courage. And they battled through a heck of a lot of adversity."
Navy last won the league championship in 1998, but this was its sixth time in the title game since 1994.
"Taking this team to the NCAAs was our mission," said Williams, who had 25 points and nine rebounds. "We didn't get it done, but we came close, and that's all that matters."
Reeder had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Navy.
Jared Curry scored 19 to lead Holy Cross.
Navy trailed 26-25 at halftime before scoring 14 of the first 16 points in the second half -- 11 of them by Williams. Holy Cross quickly cut its deficit to seven, then made its move with about six minutes left in the game.
It was 53-47 after Sankes made a free throw, then he added a dunk and picked up a foul. He missed the free throw, but the Crusaders rebounded and Sankes threw down another dunk to make it 53-51.
Williams briefly went cold, sandwiching a pair of airballs around a 10-foot jumper that left the Crusaders with a 55-51 deficit with 2:30 to play. But Sankes hit two free throws, and Mead hit two more to tie it at 55 with 1:10 left.
Williams lost the ball out of bounds, setting up Serravalle's basket that put Holy Cross ahead.