WORCESTER, Mass. – With Holy Cross junior guard Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) earning the game's MVP honors with a game-best 20 points, six assists and four rebounds, and sophomore forward Emily Parker (Johnston, Iowa) scoring 16 points and tying a career-high with four blocks, the Crusaders defeated American, 73-63, on Saturday afternoon at the Hart Center. Holy Cross improve to 13-12 overall and 5-5 in the Patriot League, while the Eagles fall to 13-11 and 6-4 in the conference.
The Crusaders were energized going into the game, as they celebrated their Winter Homecoming and hosted their annual "Think Pink Day." After the game, Smith was awarded the Rev. George L. O'Brien Award as the contest's MVP as voted on by the working media.
The contest began with American taking the lead 4-0 at the 17:20 mark of the first. Holy Cross responded with a 10-0 run initiated by junior forward Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass) layup at 16:58. Ganser followed the lay-up with a three-pointer to give Holy Cross the one point, 5-4, lead at 16:24. Smith connected with a deep three to make the score 8-4 at 15:40, while senior captain Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass) added two points to advance the score to 10-4 with 15:22 on the clock.
The Crusaders continued to maintain their lead over the Eagles with strong defense as American struggled to convert its shot attempts. At the 13:34 mark American's Sarah Kiely added two points for American to end the HC run. American cut the Crusader's lead 12-8 with a jumper by Alexis Dobbs at 12:04 as the Eagles began to find their rhythm and made the score 16-12 with a layup by Shaquilla Curtis at 9:40.
Parker helped Holy Cross under the boards as she grabbed an offensive rebound and converted it into a layup, which put HC on top 12-6. Both teams kept up the pace, as Holy Cross held the six-point lead (20-14) on the back of a junior guard Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.) layup with 8:34 on the clock. Smith then sank a deep trey to give the Crusaders their largest lead of the half, 23-14, at the 7:49 mark.
American responded to the three with a 13-4 run over the next three-plus minutes to knot the score at 27-27 with 4:55 left in the half. However, a layup by Parker and a pair of treys by Ganser and sophomore guard Ashley Cooper (Colts Neck, N.J.) put the Crusaders back on top by seven points (34-27) with 1:43 on the clock. After a layup by American's Jen Dumiak, Smith canned a trey with 17 seconds left to give HC the 37-29 lead that would remain until the end of the half.
After the intermission, HC got a pair of buckets by Smith and Malone to push the lead to 12 points (41-29) with 19:02 on the clock. Alexis Dobbs led an Eagles comeback, as she hit back-to-back three-pointers to make the score 41-35 at the 16:35 mark. The score remained close over the next four minutes as HC held the 49-44 lead with 11:49 left in the half. Smith then rallied the Crusaders, and advanced the lead to 10 points by hitting a deep three, followed by a strong drive to the basket to make the score 54-44 with 10:13 on the clock.
Dobbs responds to Smith's shot by hitting a trey, but Cooper canned a three-pointer on the other end to keep the 10-point lead (57-47) with 9:08 on the clock. American would grind the margin back to seven points (62-55) with 4:44 left in the half, before the Crusaders exploded on an 11-2 rally to gain the 73-57 advantage with 1:34 on the clock. The Eagles ended the game with six straight points, but it would not be enough as Holy Cross would go on to win 73-63.
In addition to Smith and Parker for Holy Cross, Ganser ended the game with 15 points and six rebounds, while Malone posted 11 points, four rebounds and a game-best eight assists. Lepley had six points and seven assists for the Crusaders. Dobbs led American with 19 points (13 in the second half) and six assists, while Dumiak totaled 17 points. Stephanie Anya recorded a game-high 12 rebounds including eight on the offensive glass.
The Crusaders connected on a season best 62.7 percent of their shots from the floor (32 of 51), as American was limited to 36.6 percent (26 of 71) for the game. Holy Cross drained 8 of 19 from behind the arc (42.1 percent), as the Eagles canned 31.6 percent (6 of 19) from downtown. Holy Cross held advantages in assists (22-14), blocks (5-1), points in the paint (44-24), fast-break points (13-5) and bench points (21-14).
Holy Cross will return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 20, as it will travel to Lafayette for a 7:00 p.m. contest.