The front end of the one-and-one was missed with 17.8 seconds left in overtime and Manu Alford grabbed the rebound. The ball and the fate of the NSCHSAA championship game belonged to him with Holy Trinity down by two to Chaminade.
"I was thinking, ‘We need a bucket right now. I’ve got to go to the basket,’ " the standout senior combo guard said. "I wasn’t looking to pass. I knew time was against us. … My teammates know down the stretch the ball should be in my hands. No doubt."
Alford drove the right baseline, hit a layup with 10.9 on the clock, got fouled and hit the free throw for the last of his game-high 22 points.
The top-seed Flyers couldn’t get a shot off from there. The second-seeded Titans grabbed first prize away from the the defending champs with a 51-50 win Thursday night at Hofstra.
"I’m just very proud of our team," coach Joe Conefry said. "We’ve got a really great group of kids. I loved our toughness, having to get a stop at the end. Chaminade is a very good team."
Now Holy Trinity (15-10) can begin pursuit of another first prize — the CHSAA Class A state title. The Titans will face Canisius (21-5), from Buffalo, in the semis at 11 a.m Sunday back at Hofstra.
"I feel like we’ve got a real good chance to win the state championship as long as we do what we do every day in practice and we keep working hard," Alford said.
The Flyers, paced by Mac Kelly’s 15, bowed out at 21-5. They won the regular-season title, beating the Titans twice along the way.
"They made a couple more plays than we did, especially at the end," Chaminade coach Dan Feeney said. "It’s something that will stick with us through the spring and summer and the fall, and hopefully the juniors that are back and the sophomores back next year and the JV guys will bounce back.
"It’s a tough one to lose, but it’s part of sports, too."
Holy Trinity’s lead sat at eight when Alford buried a three to start the fourth. The Flyers hung in and finally pulled even at 48-48 on a Bradley Wyckoff layup with 42 seconds left.
Dave DeBusschere made a steal with about nine seconds to go for the Flyers. The Titans had fouls to give and took two after a timeout. Chaminade ultimately couldn’t get a shot off.
Greg Cantwell drove to Chaminade a 50-48 edge with 1:52 remaining in OT. But Alford decided it.
"Great players make great plays when it’s time to make them," Conefry said.
Holy Trinity outscored Chaminade 18-9 in the second quarter to take a 29-22 lead and extended it to 34-24 on an Alford three with 5:24 left in the third. The Titans’ edge was five heading to the fourth.
"I’m happy," Alford said. "This is what we worked for all season."