Eddie Higgins was nervous. His stomach hurt. He began to doubt himself. This was yesterday, minutes before the Holy Trinity senior center made his first varsity start.
"It was nerve-wracking," Higgins said. "Thank God my adrenaline kicked in and I was fine by the first tip-off."
Higgins got things together and finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
The same could be said about the Titans, who behind Higgins and Jack Sixsmith's 25 points and eight assists rallied for a 78-75 overtime win against visiting Chaminade in the CHSAA boys basketball opener for both teams.
James Golaszewski, who scored 23 points, gave the Titans their final three-point lead when he made a free throw with 40 seconds left. The Flyers had a chance to tie it, but Owen Prendergast's three-point attempt was contested and rimmed out at the buzzer.
Sixsmith's two free throws put Holy Trinity up 77-73 with 1:30 remaining. Chaminade's Charles Salter (22 points) cut the deficit to two when he made a layup with 1:05 left. The Flyers forced a turnover on the Titans' ensuing possession and had a chance to tie it, but Higgins made an emphatic block on a shot in the paint.
Many students in the crowd chanted Higgins' name after the block. It was the second time they did that.
The first rhythmical "Ed-die Hig-gins" chant was heard after Higgins cut to the basket and finished a fast break with a two-handed slam on a pretty pass from Golaszewski. It gave Holy Trinity a 75-71 lead with three minutes left. "I was ecstatic and it got everyone hyped," Higgins said. "That was my first dunk and favorite play ever. I'll remember it forever."
Higgins, who didn't play much last year during the Titans' state title run, started because point guard Mike Farella suffered an injury in Holy Trinity's loss to Baldwin last Monday. Holy Trinity coach Joe Conefry decided to go with a bigger lineup and use the 6-6 Higgins. At first, it didn't look like it was working.
Chaminade, behind Salter, Prendergast (13 points) and Kevin McNoble (16 points), played an up-tempo style, shot the ball well early and led by 12 points late in the second quarter. But Sixsmith, who ran the team in place of Farella, said he was never worried.
"I knew that we would come back if we just played hard," Sixsmith said. "I like to contain my emotions."
Sixsmith gave Holy Trinity its first lead when he made a layup with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter. The Titans never trailed afterward, but Salter's layup with 20 seconds left tied it at 71 and sent the game into overtime.
Before the start of overtime, Higgins looked at a few of his teammates, including Sixsmith, and said, "Let's do this."
After all, it wasn't his first tip-off.
Said Higgins: "What an experience."