By Steve Svetovich
Veteran coach Al Callejas led the Holy Cross Crusaders to its fourth consecutive PIAA District 2 Class 2A title, 47-19, over Mountain View Saturday, February 29, at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Leahy O’Connor led the Crusaders with 14 points in the title win.
Patrick Bennie added 12 points and six rebounds for Holy Cross.
Holy Cross senior guard Kieran Burrier added six points, nine rebounds, six steals, three assists and a block in a nice all around effort.
Crusaders senior guard James Calciano scored six points.
Holy Cross (23-2) will now face District 4 third-place Sayre in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs Saturday, March 7.
The Crusaders relied on a tough defense forcing early turnovers to generate a 32-7 first half lead over Mountain View. The Crusaders then held Mountain View to only three points in the third quarter to extend the lead to 41-10.
The Crusaders’ first quarter defensive intensity forced eight Mountain View turnovers.
Burrier hit on a 3-pointer off a Caleb Callejas pass in transition off a turnover to give Holy Cross a 9-0 lead with 3:22 left in the first quarter. It was smooth sailing after that.
The Eagles managed only four shots in the first quarter due to a tight, stingy Holy Cross defense led by standout Burrier. The steady senior had four of his six steals in the first quarter.
After an early 19-0 run, the Crusaders finished the first half out scoring the Eagles, 13-5, with Calciano scoring four of the points and backup guard John Hartridge hitting on a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left in the half.
The Crusaders pretty much put the game away by starting the second half on a 9-1 run, with baskets by O’Connor, Bennie, Calciano and Joe Osborne.
Michael Fanelli led Mountain View with 11 points.
The Crusaders defeated Blue Ridge, 68-24, in the quarterfinals, with Bennie scoring 15 and O’Connor and Burrier adding 13 and 11 points, respectively. Holy Cross beat Old Forge, 60-48 in the semifinals, a much closer contest.
Burrier is the Crusaders leading scorer at a shade under 16 points per game. O’Connor averages 11.6 points and Bennie 11.3 points per contest, respectively.
Holy Cross has won four straight and eight District 2 Class 2A championships overall in a basketball program that began in 2007-08.
Mountain View is coached by former Holy Cross standout Joe Gibbons. He helped lead the Holy Cross program’s first team to a title in 2008 under Callejas. The Crusaders opened this season with a 51-26 win over Mountain View.
Callejas, a member of the Northeast Chapter of the PA Sports Hall of Fame, now has 512 career coaching wins and a highly impressive 41-6 record in District 2 playoff games.
Holy Cross boasts the program’s best record since 2008 when it finished 24-3.
Holy Cross and Mountain View played in the 2017 championship game won by the Crusaders, 46-18.