(Deerfield, Ill.) The Holy Cross men's basketball team notched their second career playoff win on Monday evening in Deerfield, Illinois against the host Trojans of Trinity International University in impressive fashion. Senior Mike Vander Ploeg (Kalamazoo, Mich.) took control in the second half scoring 17 of his career high 24 points en route to the Saints program best 14th win.
"We knew after playing these guys twice already that we had to come out strong and execute," said head coach Bob Schermerhorn. "Getting out to an early lead really helped us control the tempo of the game."
The Saints got to work early offensively as they jumped out to a quick 12-4 run in the game's first four minutes and had extended it to as high as 20-11 at the 11:30 mark of the first half.
Trinity International, however, found some momentum of their own after capping off their own 12-2 run, giving the Trojans their first lead of the game at 23-22.
A collective offensive effort by the Saints helped them steal the momentum back from the Trojans and close off a 14-5 run to make it a 36-28 game. Trinity International would cut the Saints lead to as low as two points down the stretch, but the stellar first half performance by Holy Cross continued to answer back and close out the half with a 49-40 advantage.
Brandon Evans (Grand Rapids, Mich.), who didn't take a shot in the last game, led the way for the Saints in the first half scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Yama Kader (Mission Viejo, Cali.) added 10 points while Parker Dominguez (Santa Clarita, Cali.) and Mike Vander Ploeg each chipped in with 7.
The Saints knocked down an impressive 20-of-34 (58.8%) in the first half and turned 8 Trinity International turnovers into 14 points.
The Saints offense continued to be impressive during the early stages of the second half as they quickly extended their lead to ten points following a jumper by Brandon Evans at the 17:58 mark; they were able to keep the lead at ten until the 11:48 mark.
Trinity International, though, would once again put together a run of their own and cut the Saints lead to as low as five points. This, however, wouldn't last long as senior point guard Mike Vander Ploeg began his second half takeover where he seemed to answer every run the Trojans put together. Whether it was knocking down a step-back three, or getting to the foul line, Vander Ploeg was playing with a demeanor that this would not be his last game in a Saints uniform.
The Saints knocked down 16-of-21 attempts from the foul line in the second half en route to making it difficult for the Trojans to gain any serious momentum. A lot of this had to do with the efficiency of Vander Ploeg, who hit 7-of-8 attempts himself in the second half.
Zoe Bauer (Culver, Ind.) scored the final two points of the game after knocking down both of his free-throws with 40 seconds left in the game to give the Saints an impressive 90-78 road victory over the host Trojans who had won the two prior meetings this season.
Mike Vander Ploeg led all scorers with a career high 24 points, 17 coming the second half. Brandon Evans added 20 points for the Saints while Yama Kader chipped in with 15. Parker Dominguez added an 11 point and 10 rebound double-double.
"I'm extremely proud of how our guys played tonight," continued Schermerhorn. "Even during the times when they would make a run at our lead we had guys step up and knock down big shots. The team played like they weren't ready for the season to end."
With the win over Trinity International the Saints improved their record to 14-17 overall; the second consecutive season the team has reached 14 wins. They will return to action in the second round of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) play-off s on Wednesday, February 20th against the No. 2 seed and No. 7 nationally ranked Cougars of Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois. The game is set to tip-off at 8:00 p.m. EST.