Manu Alford of Holy Trinity charges toward the net past...

Manu Alford of Holy Trinity charges toward the net past Shane Cercone of Canisius at the CHSAA boys Class A state semifinal game against Canisius on Sunday, March 6, 2022 at Hofstra. Credit: Dawn McCormick

The Holy Trinity boys basketball team was absorbing every shot from Canisius. Every time it seemed Canisius might be about to blow the score open, the Titans would respond with a spurt of their own.

Although Holy Trinity never faded, the Titans ultimately lost to Canisius (Buffalo), 53-45, in the state CHSAA ‘A’ semifinals at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex Sunday afternoon.

"That’s who we are and that’s what we talk about all the time," coach Joe Conefry said. "We’re not going anywhere and we’re going to compete and fight. But you need to make some baskets when that happens, too. So unfortunately we just couldn’t get the big one to fall at the right time."

Holy Trinity (15-11) scored the game’s opening six points, but Canisius led 16-12 after the first quarter. Canisius (22-5) went on a 15-2 run over 8:30 to take a 24-14 advantage with 5:57 remaining in the second quarter. But Holy Trinity ended the half on an 11-3 run to cut Canisius’ lead to 27-25 at the intermission.

"I’m really proud of my guys, we fought until the end," said senior guard Manu Alford, who led the Titans with 11 points. "We know basketball is a game of runs. They were hot [then] but we had to keep fighting until we came back."

Holy Trinity tied the score at 27 and 29 in the third quarter before Canisius' Shane Cercone hit a three-pointer with 6:16 remaining in the quarter. Cercone had 10 of his 18 points in the third quarter and Holy Trinity trailed 42-36 after the period.

"He’s a really good player, it was fun competing with him," Alford said. "He’s a tough player, he gets his team involved. He can really do a lot."

But the Titans fought back again. Holy Trinity brought the score to 45-43 with 2:23 remaining in the fourth quarter before Canisius closed on an 8-2 run.

"It was a tough loss," Alford said. "We had a couple of plays where things could have gone differently, a couple of shots could have fallen that didn’t and I feel like it could have been a different result."

"Obviously when you are playing this time of year, it’s great to be playing, but everyone’s really good," Conefry said. "We missed some shots and had some tough rolls. I hate to simplify it . . . but when you are playing tight games against a good team, you need those shots."

Alford and Conefry admitted it was a little challenging playing less than 72 hours after their thrilling overtime victory over Chaminade in the league final but didn’t want to make excuses.

"We were ready to go," Conefry said. "You get greedy this time of year. Every game is great, every win is awesome and you have two games to win a state championship, so why not. But I felt like we were definitely focused and ready to go."

Even though Holy Trinity fell short of its ultimate goal of a state championship, both coach and player were extremely proud of the team’s success and growth throughout the winter.

"I can’t even put it into words," Conefry said. "These guys have been amazing. We’ve gotten better all year, we’ve grown together."

"I’m really proud of my guys," Alford said. "We came a long way. I wish it could have been a different result but we had a great season overall."

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