|Final - 12.16.2013
|Canisius Golden Griffins
|Holy Cross Crusaders
Billy Baron has taken the long road to where he is now. A road that began at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, R.I. made stops at Worcester Academy, then Virginia, then URI before finally landing in Buffalo, N.Y. and the Canisius Golden Griffins. Just miles from where he made his name as a prep star, Baron led his father's team to an 83-73 win over the Holy Cross Crusaders at the Hart Center with 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The preseason MAAC Player of the Year was electric, scoring in a variety of ways and getting to the line seemingly at will. Baron finished 7-for-15 from the field (4-for-8 from three) and a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line, the final two of which gave us the final score and Canisius' largest lead of the game.
It wasn't always out of reach, however. Holy Cross, which trailed by three at the half, made several runs at Canisius' always-precarious lead, typically getting within one possession before letting it slip away. The game finally swung the Golden Griffins' way at the 1:36 mark when, with a 72-69 lead, Baron split two defenders then passed around a third to find a wide open Jordan Heath at the three-point line. The shot was nothing but net and the game was all but over.
Holy Cross tried to make it interesting over the final 96 seconds, but the Crusaders were never totally comfortable attacking the Canisius 2-3 zone. With everyone strung around the outside, Milan Brown's team was unable to use its best player, Dave Dudzinski (16 points, 10 rebounds), instead relying on Justin Burrell, Anthony Thompson, Eric Green, and Malachi Alexander to find ways to exploit the zone. Alexander fought his way to the line a few times, but for the most part the zone kept the Crusaders away from the paint and out of their comfort zone.
For the day, Holy Cross shot just 7-for-24 from beyond the arc -- a mark that will rarely get the job done against a zone defense. Only Malcolm Miller hit more than one long-range shot, making 2-of-6 from three.
On the other end, Baron and Chris Perez were able to get shots within their comfort zone all game. Perez supported Baron's effort with 14 points on 7-for-12 shooting, while Heath added 15 of his own.
Nobody could out-shine Baron on this night though -- not with 30 tickets at will call for friends and family out-numbering what Holy Cross fans made the trek up Mount St. James -- and after all he has been through in the last four years, he deserved to have his night in Worcester.