WCA boys edge Holy Cross in nail-biting nightcap

WCA’s Marquan Watson (22) goes up for a rebound during Friday’s game against Holy Cross.

There are many words that can be used to describe Friday night’s Holy Cross-Waterbury Career Academy game inside the cramped confines of the WCA gymnasium.
Frentic. Sloppy. Physical. Heart-stopping. Nail-biting.
I would go with awesome. It was Brass City basketball at its most entertaining. Back and forth, down to the final buzzer.
When it was over, WCA escaped with a thrilling 75-73 win over Holy Cross. The Spartans improved to 9-6. The Crusaders, who burned themselves with a 5-for-15 effort at the foul line, suffered their second straight loss and fell to 12-3.
Holy Cross had a chance to tie with no time on the clock. Kerson Etienne was fouled driving to the basket, but missed his first free throw, ending the game. As mentioned above, the Crusaders missed 10 of 15 free throw attempts as a team.

Also, Etienne has come up big in two earlier games this season at the line. 
“The Crosby game, he went 11-for-13 in the fourth quarter,” Holy Cross first-year head coach Ryan Olsen said. “He was 9-for-11 in the first game against Kennedy. I told him after that he’s won two games almost single-handedly.”
The Crusaders had the right guy on the line, but the shot just didn’t drop. As Olsen put it, if Holy Cross shoots 50 percent from the line — or in this case 8-for-15 — the Crusaders win the game.
For WCA, it was a sense of relief. Three of the six Spartan losses have been in agonizing fashion, including a 56-54 defeat at Holy Cross on Jan. 13.

WCA’s Chad McKoy tries to clear some room against Holy Cross’ Marcellus Gomes.

“Our record could be a lot different, but we’re competing with everybody,” WCA head coach Ronan O’Leary said. “Now we just need to win some of these games.”
The Spartans did win one of those games Friday night, and they did it with major efforts from different players. For one, sophomore Marquan Watson, who led the way with 22 points and consistently pounded away on the boards.
“He was immense,” O’Leary said. “He just rose above so many kids that were taller than him.”
There was sophomore guard Matt Torres, who canned five 3-pointers and made all three free throws for 18 big points.
“He’s a lights-out shooter,” O’Leary said. “He’s been struggling with his shot recently. I told him I’ll never lose faith in his shot or ability.”
There was also junior Jadan Battle, who had 16 points, 10 of them in a major fourth-quarter effort. Battle slashed to the basket and made some big shots. His three-point play at the start of the fourth quarter put WCA ahead 56-55. Battle went all the way for a lay-up and a 66-60 lead with 3:57 to play. His 3-pointer with under three minutes to play put the Spartans up 71-63.
No lead was comfortable in this game. Holy Cross scored the next eight points behind Etienne (12 points), Nyzair Rountree (team-high 21 points) and DeAndre Wallace (15 points) to tie the game with 1:35 to play.

Holy Cross’ Nyzair Rountree throws down a dunk.

Rountree, who showed flashes of big-time toughness under the basket, made a hoop and drew the foul to get the Crusaders to within 71-67 at 1:49 to play. He missed the foul shot, but Wallace grabbed the rebound and scored to make it 71-69. Rountree drew another and-one situation 14 seconds later, but missed another free throw to keep the game tied at 71. The frustration was more than evident on Rountree’s face when the shot clanged off the rim.
Battle sank a pair of free throws with 1:02 to go to put WCA back in the lead at 73-71. Rountree scored again to tie the game at 73.
A scramble for a loose ball ensued with 10 seconds left. Possession was in favor of WCA, which called timeout with 8.1 seconds to go. Watson was fouled with 4.7 seconds left and buried both foul shots to put the Spartans up 75-73 and set up the final frantic play.
For Holy Cross, more consistency could have led to victory.
“We’re playing well in the fourth quarter, but we fall so far behind that it kills us,” Olsen said.
Rountree and company tried valiantly to pull out the win, but the bounces went WCA’s win for a huge victory.