Stung by an improbable last-second loss at Windward three nights earlier, Crossroads needed a win over Brentwood Friday to salvage its playoff hopes.
The Crossroads gym was filled to capacity, the rooting sections tried to drown each other out, and the game had the environment of a heated rivalry.
In the featured attraction of the day-long Extravaganza on campus, the Crossroads boys jumped out to a 17-4 lead after one quarter, met a third quarter challenge that reduced the advantage to four points and raced to a 70-49 victory.
As a result, this week began with Campbell Hall in first place, Windward second with a 5-3 record and Brentwood and Crossroads tied for third at 4-4 in the Olympic League, which has three automatic playoff berths.
The outcome will be decided in the final week of the regulation season.
At Windward, Crossroads had a 53-48 lead with 44 seconds to play in overtime. Then it was 53-50 with freshman star Merrick Ross shooting two free throws. He missed them, Windward made a three-point basket, a foul was called on the play and the free throw was made to hand Crossroads a 54-53 loss.
Crossroads Coach Kevin Brown knew his team could be crushed by the Windward game or could come back strong against Brentwood.
“The intensity was outstanding,” he said. “The crowd contributed to our energy and we were focused from start to finish. It was a must-win situation and we played our best game by far.”
Special recognition went to Ross, who played superbly, scoring 25 points.
“I talk a lot about players taking personal responsibility and he really did that,” said Brown. “He stepped up. He showed how tough he is.”
Ross had help from senior Michael Ojo, who scored 19, and center Conrad Liebowitz, who was solid inside. Peter McMillan led Brentwood with 15.
Crossroads took a quick 9-2 lead. Then Ross made a three-point shot and Ojo a reverse lay-up, making it 14-2.
Brentwood, which had defeated Crossroads by two points in their first meeting, settled into the game and made it competitive. But each time it closed in, Crossroads had another burst.
The win gave Crossroads an overall 14-10 record with two games remaining before playoff berths are announced Sunday, February 11.