It wasn't easy, but why should it be in a league tournament championship game?
The top-seeded Holy Cross girls basketball team got all it could handle from No. 3 Kennedy on the Eagles' home floor inside Jack Taglia Gymnasium on Wednesday night during the NVL Tournament final.
With contributions from its stars and its role players, the Crusaders claimed a 61-56 victory and added another NVL title to the trophy case. Holy Cross senior RaShana Siders was named tournament MVP after scoring 22 points in the game.
"I just think we played really hard defense in the second half," Siders told CPTV Sports after the game. "We came out and played with fire in the second half."
Senior Lynadia Whiting had 22 points for Kennedy.
The teams traded foul shots in the final two minutes, the final pair from Holy Cross senior Caitlin Cipriano (13 points) giving the Crusaders a tenuous 57-56 lead. Siders converted one of two free throws for a 58-56 lead.
Kennedy had a chance to tie, but a turnover proved costly. On the next Holy Cross possession, Cipriano had control of the ball beyond the three-point line. Siders made a cut to the basket, and Cipriano found her for a lay-up and a 60-56 advantage. Cipriano added one more free throw for the final margin of victory.
"I want to thank my team for playing hard today," Siders said. "Let's keep it going."
Cipriano posted this on Twitter following the game.
"60-2 in my four years. Couldn't be more happy to be a part of a great tradition. Can't believe that was my last NVL game."
Big plays didn't just come from Siders and Cipriano. Junior Aiyana Ward was huge under the basket for the Crusaders with 13 points. Sophomore Gabby Goldman contributed 10 points, including some huge baskets to help keep Holy Cross ahead.
Kennedy showed the heart of a champion throughout and rallied to take a 56-55 lead on two foul shots from Whiting. Senior Sarah Emmanuel-Norwood had 13 points for the Eagles.
According to "The Zone" (Waterbury Republican-American), this is Holy Cross' ninth tournament title since 2005. Kennedy won the title in 2009.
Next up for both squads is the state tournament. Holy Cross (21-2 overall) is the No. 4 seed in Class M and hosts No. 29 Kaynor Tech on Saturday at 5 p.m. in a first round matchup.
Kennedy (18-5 overall) is the No. 12 seed in Class LL and hosts defending state champion Wilton, the No. 21 seed, on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a first round contest.