Brian Bernardi spent the better part of the last week feverishly rehabbing his bruised right shoulder and the junior guard spent much of the first half on Feb. 23 desperately trying to find his shot. Though he wasn’t about to use an injury that forced him to miss Xaverian’s last two games as an excuse.
“I don’t think it was because of my shoulder,” Bernardi said. “I just wasn’t hitting shots today.”
And yet, with the game on the line, there was the sharpshooter burying a deep jumper to give the Clippers a lead with 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan semifinal against Holy Cross.
“To know what this kid went through in the last week with MRIs, the therapy, a normal kid wouldn’t have gotten himself ready to play,” Xaverian coach Jack Alesi said. “This injury should have taken more time, but for him to come back and hit a shot like that to give us the lead, it says a lot about him.”
Injury or no injury, Holy Cross senior Evan Conti wasn’t surprised when he saw Bernardi’s shot drop.
“When Bernardi got the ball in the corner, I knew he was going to make that shot,” he said. “He’s just not going to miss that shot.”
The second-seeded Clippers were a stop away from booking its trip to the tournament final. That stop, though, wouldn’t come.
Preoccupied with the Knights perimeter threats, the Clippers lost Marcus Hopper and the 6-foot-9 center scored what proved to be the winning layup with 30 seconds left as third-seeded Holy Cross defeated No. 2 Xaverian at Christ the King.
“I thought we were looking for the shooters and they got it slipped backdoor and they found an easy layup,” Xaverian forward Manny Thomas said.
Xaverian had one more chance to pull out the win when Holy Cross standout Evan Conti went 1-of-2 from the line with 6.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But the Clippers couldn’t corral the rebound, which rolled out of bounds off a Holy Cross player.
That left 4.3 seconds on the clock, limiting the Clippers options for a tying or winning play.
So Alesi put the ball in Travis Gill’s hands and hoped his senior would race up the court and get a good shot. But Holy Cross wisely trapped the forward at halfcourt and all Gill could do it get off a desperation heave that caromed off the backboard at the buzzer.
“It’s a hot read for Travis and he made as good a play as he could have, but we were just limited by the time,” Alesi said. “We thought he was the best opportunity to get the ball in on the out of bounds. He’s a good dribbler and our fastest player.”
Bernardi and Thomas scored 14 points apiece, Gill had 11 and Greg Civiletti added 10 for Xaverian, which will meet either St. Raymond or Rice in next week’s CHSAA Class AA intersectional quarterfinals.
The Clippers trailed by as many as 12 late in the third quarter, but rallied in the fourth, disrupting Holy Cross’ rhythmic offense and creating turnovers.
“We started pressuring them and trapping them and got a lot of steals off of that and that got us back,” Bernardi said. “But unfortunately Hopper gets that last shot in.”