COMMENTARY: Hearts-Crusaders made for a fun Monday night

I took in the Sacred Heart-Holy Cross boys basketball game as a fan with my father on Monday night at Alumni Hall.
It was certainly worth the $10 admission between the two of us. The Hearts used a tough drive and basket from Courie Stevenson, plus a free throw from Raheem Solomon, to complete a 65-63 comeback victory over the Crusaders.

It’s unfortunate that less than a sellout witnessed the fourth quarter of this classic. Waterbury Republican-American columnist Joe Palladino said crowds have been subpar at Brass City games, and unfortunately it was true again Monday night. The Sacred Heart student section was into the game, especially down the stretch, but there were plenty of good seats available inside the small Alumni Hall.
If you weren’t at Alumni Hall, you missed a wild fourth quarter. We got there for warm-ups before the JV game, but in all honesty could have been there much later.
OK, enough about crowds, and more about the game.
For the first three quarters-plus, you would have thought Holy Cross was undefeated and Sacred Heart was the team with two losses. The Crusaders outplayed and outhustled the Hearts to a 45-32 lead after three quarters, then led 52-35 early in the fourth quarter.
The game looked to be over. Nyzair Rountree and DeAndre Wallace were throwing down dunks, while Jack Potter and Kerson Etienne buried 3-pointers.
Alas, the game was far from over. Sacred Heart finally found the fire it had been missing and started to chip away at Holy Cross. 
To play pressure defense, all five guys must be committed, and the Hearts were. Sacred Heart came in waves of Courie Stevenson, Legend Johnson, Isaiah Gaiter, Raheem Solomon and others.
Holy Cross tried to take time off the clock — remember there’s no shot clock in Connecticut (which sucks) — but it took the Crusaders away from what got them the big lead.
When the Sacred Heart pressure ratcheted up, Holy Cross panicked. The points came faster for the Hearts, and the Crusader lead melted away.
Sacred Heart went from down 55-41 with 4:40 to play to ahead 62-61 at the 36.5-second mark. Holy Cross got the lead back, but Stevenson drove baseline, scored and was fouled.
Stevenson missed his foul shot, but the Hearts remarkably got the rebound. Solomon made one of two free throws, then the Crusaders had the ball for the final play.

Like Friday night against WCA, Holy Cross guard Kerson Etienne took off with the ball to the other end of the floor, trying to score or draw a foul. Neither happened, and Sacred Heart escaped with a win.
And the Hearts absolutely escaped.
For the first three-plus quarters, Holy Cross — like Wilby on Friday night — showed that Sacred Heart is indeed beatable. There was good tempo in the halfcourt offense, a box-and-one on defense that annoyed the Hearts, and then the Crusaders ran when they had the opportunities.
One such runout produced a spectacular alley-oop slam by Wallace off an assist from Rountree.
For the first three-plus quarters, Holy Cross looked like the team to beat. Then Sacred Heart showed the pride and heart that comes with being a three-time defending state championship program. 
Both teams showed they can be impressive and be an absolute nightmare in the postseason. Both teams also showed that there is plenty of room to grow.
Overall, it was a fun night of Brass City basketball, and well worth the admission. If you don’t watch games in Waterbury this season, it’s your loss.