Only as the game was seconds away from ending did Megan Schaufele let her emotions show.
After a quick look at the clock, the Holy Cross Crusaders point guard flipped the basketball into the air as time expired while she flashed a huge smile at her teammates, setting off the celebration at mid-court.
The girls high school team outlasted the Immaculata Mustangs 53-39 in the championship game Saturday night at Holy Cross high school, the game played before a full house of more than 600 students, parents and spectators.
For Schaufele and six other Crusaders, it’s the second straight tournament title. But contrary to the sports adage the first one is the sweetest, the point guard said this one was a little more special.
“This being the Grade 12 year, this one means a little bit more,” she said, still trying to catch her breath after the game while picking up her equipment bag at the bench. “This one is amazing.”
Selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Schaufele and the group of Grade 12s were a huge factor in the championship run, which saw the Crusaders win three straight games by an average of 21 points.
“Our goal was to outwork our opponents, and we did that,” said head coach Gianni Bittante. “We’re very proud of the kids, they dug down deep and made some key plays when we needed them.
“And the big thing was leadership. Megan was terrific all weekend, and Amy Beauchamp hit the floor so many times chasing loose balls. When you have a six-foot forward doing that, it’s something.”
The Crusaders withstood a pair of Immaculata rallies on their way to the championship. They jumped out to a 10-2 lead just four minutes into the game, but were tied 12-12 after the first quarter. Diana Wilson – a Grade 12 forward – hit a pair of treys early in the second quarter to spark another Holy Cross run, and the host school led 29-19 at half time.
The Mustangs closed to within six at three-quarter time, and then pulled even with four minutes to go when Alex Basso went the length of the court for one bucket, and Laura Gini hit a three-point shot to knot the score 39-39.
Then the leadership came through.
Schaufele put together a couple of buckets to restore the lead, Beauchamp blocked a shot that led to a basket from Bianca Palitti, Schaufele hit Wilson for a score, then Palitti stole the ball and added the fifth consecutive Holy Cross basket. In less than two minutes, the 10-point lead was restored.
“We just held it together, we knew what we had to do,” said Schaufele of the Holy Cross response to the late surge by Immaculata. “Our team really held it together. We held our ground well, we came together as a team.”
Schaufele led all scorers with 19 points, while Beauchamp added 11. Wilson tallied 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter.
A trio of Grade 12s, Scheufele, Beauchamp and Wilson, were named to the tournament’s first all-star team, joined by Basso and Gini of the Mustangs. Palitti, a Grade 10, was a second team selection.
The Crusaders boys team placed third after a 75-54 victory over the Notre Dame Jugglers, scoring 29 points in the fourth quarter.
Grade 11 guard Roberto Moreno scored 13 fourth-quarter points to help Holy Cross pull away in the final 10 minutes, finishing the game with 16.
First-team all-star Billy Greene was the top scorer with 20 points, with Harold Keech – a second team all-star – netting 10.