By Charles Bare
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Ralph Willard's decade-long tenure as the head men's basketball coach at the College of the Holy Cross produced a number of memorable moments for the Crusaders. Over the last 10 seasons, Holy Cross posted a winning record eight times, advanced to four NCAA Tournaments, and played in the National Invitation Tournament once. The Crusaders also won four Patriot League Tournament titles, four Patriot League regular season crowns and played in the Patriot League championship game seven times.
Here is a look back at Holy Cross' 10 biggest victories over the last 10 years.
10. Holy Cross 73, St. Joseph's 69 (November 16, 2008;
On the day when Holy Cross retired the jerseys of four all-time greats (Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, George Kaftan and Togo Palazzi), the Crusaders rallied from 12 points down with 10 minutes remaining in regulation for the victory. After using a 14-1 run late in the game to regain the lead and eventually force overtime, Holy Cross outscored the Hawks 10-6 in the extra session. Adam May led the Crusaders with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Alex Vander Baan posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards.
9. Holy Cross 54, Providence 43 (November 20, 1999;
In Willard's first game as the Crusaders' head coach, Holy Cross downed the Friars at the Providence Civic Center for their first win over a Big East opponent since 1991. The Crusaders trailed 38-31 with 9:14 remaining in the second half, before going on a 10-0 run where they took the lead for good on a three-pointer by Ryan Serravalle. Holy Cross held Providence to just five points the rest of the way, and eventually pulled away in the final four minutes for an 11-point win. Serravalle led the team with 14 points and four assists, while Josh Sankes posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
8. Holy Cross 71, St. Joseph's 66 (December 4, 2007;
Holy Cross hit the road early in the 2007-2008 campaign, and came away with a victory at the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. The Crusaders took control of the game from the opening tip, starting the night with a 12-0 run over the first seven minutes of play. The Holy Cross lead would eventually grow to 18 points late in the first half, and would stay in double figures for most of the game. The Hawks rallied to make it a five point game with two minutes left, but the Crusaders hit five of seven free throws in the final minute to hold on for the victory. Tim Clifford and Alex Vander Baan both finished with 16 points and seven rebounds to lead Holy Cross.
7. Holy Cross 67, Massachusetts 56 (December 4, 2001;
UMass entered the game at 4-0 under new head coach Steve Lappas, and was coming off victories over Oregon and North Carolina State. But the Crusaders came into the Mullins Center and posted a convincing 11-point victory over the Minutemen. After trailing 36-32 at the half, Holy Cross took the lead for good on a basket by Nate Lufkin with 13:56 remaining. The Crusaders would later hold UMass scoreless for over seven minutes, using an 8-0 run to increase their lead to 10 points. Ryan Serravalle led Holy Cross with 16 points and seven rebounds, and Michael Smiley added 13 points off the bench while hitting three of four attempts from three-point range.
6. Holy Cross 71, Boston College 70 (December 1, 2002;
In what remains Holy Cross' last victory in the storied series, the Crusaders earned a thrilling one-point win at the Worcester Centrum. Holy Cross took a 35-30 lead at halftime, after scoring the final six points before heading into the locker room. The Crusaders extended their edge to seven points early in the second half, before Boston College went on an 8-0 run, and the score remained close the rest of the way. A free throw by Jave Meade with 1:23 remaining broke a 68-68 tie, then Brian Wilson hit two free throws with eight seconds left to make it a three-point game. The Eagles only points in the final minute and a half came on a put-back by Craig Smith as time expired, cutting the final margin to one point. Wilson led Holy Cross with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.
5. Holy Cross 78, Notre Dame 73 (March 15, 2005; Notre
The Crusaders received their first bid to the National Invitation Tournament since 1981, and went on the road to post the Patriot League's first-ever victory in a national postseason tournament. The game was tied 32-32 at halftime, but Holy Cross came out of the locker room on fire, using an 18-5 run to take control of the game. The Irish cut the lead to one-point with 4:20 remaining, before the Crusaders scored nine of the next 11 points. Holy Cross then made 11 of 14 free throws in the final two minutes to ice the victory. Kevin Hamilton led the way with a season- high 26 points and seven rebounds
4. Holy Cross 72, American 64 (March 14, 2003;
A standing room only crowd at the Hart Center saw Holy Cross become the first team in Patriot League history to win the conference tournament title three years in a row. After the score was tied 33-33 at halftime, the Crusaders outscored the Eagles 14-3 in the first four minutes of the second half to take a double-figure lead. American came back to tie the score at 51-51, before an 11-0 Holy Cross run put the game away. The Crusaders then hit six of eight free throws in the final minute to hold on for the win. Patrick Whearty totaled 21 points and eight rebounds for Holy Cross, while earning Patriot League Tournament MVP honors.
3. Holy Cross 58, American 54 (March 8, 2002;
The Crusaders earned the second Patriot League title of the Willard era by going on the road to defeat the top-seeded Eagles at Bender Arena. In a game that was close throughout, American led 40-34 with 13:40 remaining in the second half. Holy Cross then used an 8-0 spurt to take the lead, before the Eagles rallied to go up 51-50 with 1:37 on the clock. But a basket by Patrick Whearty with just over a minute to go put the Crusaders in the lead for good, then Holy Cross made all six of its free throws in the final 16 seconds to earn the win. Patriot League Tournament MVP Tim Szatko led the Crusaders with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Brian Wilson added 15 points.
2. Holy Cross 74, Bucknell 66 (March 9, 2007; Worcester,
After losing to Bucknell in the Patriot League championship game in both 2005 and 2006, Holy Cross posted a convincing victory over the Bison at the Hart Center to win the conference tournament title. The Crusaders led by 19 points early in the second half, before Bucknell came back to tie the score at 53-53 with 5:52 left to play. Holy Cross responded by scoring the next seven points, including a key three-pointer by Torey Thomas. The Bison would get no closer than four points the rest of the way, as the Crusaders made all 16 of their free throws in the final five minutes. Thomas totaled a career-high 28 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Patriot League Tournament MVP Keith Simmons added 23 points.
1. Holy Cross 68, Navy 64 (March 9, 2001; Worcester,
The first Patriot League title of the Willard era was the most exciting, as it came with an overtime victory against Navy at the Hart Center. The Crusaders trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, and were still down by six with just 4:24 to play in regulation. Josh Sankes then scored six straight points to help force overtime, and Ryan Serravalle hit a pair of clutch three-pointer in the extra session to lead Holy Cross to the victory. Jared Curry scored a team-high 19 points for the Crusaders, while Sankes finished with 15 points and 17 boards while taking home Patriot League Tournament MVP honors.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of GoHolyCross.com or the Holy Cross Athletic Department.