It seemed everything was stacked against All Hallows on Wednesday – the Gaels had lost twice to Rice during the regular season, both lopsided results and Rice was a heavy favorite to advance to Sunday’s CHSAA Class AA intersectional final.
The Raiders were talented, deep, big and tough. The Gaels? Not so much.
And when Rice scored the first seven points of the game, the rout seemingly was on. But All Hallows didn’t fold. Coming off an upset against Xaverian in the quarterfinals, the Gaels fought back and went on a 15-0 run and nearly pulled off one of the greatest upsets of all time in the CHSAA.
All Hallows went down swinging, losing 67-58, in the first CHSAA Class AA intersectional semifinals Wednesday night at St. John’s University.
“We played like we wanted respect,” junior guard Michael Alvarado said. “Nobody respected us because nobody gave us a shot to win this game, besides us.”
All Hallows didn’t win the game, but it did get Rice’s attention immediately.
“The two games we played them we beat them handily,” Rice sophomore Jermaine Sanders said. “Today they came out with a goal to beat us and they didn’t lay down because of the two times we beat them and they played hard.”
Led by the backcourt tandem of Rashawn Stores (18 points) and Alvarado, the Gaels not only shot their way back into the game, but led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter.
“When you have guys like Michael and Rashawn, you would like them to step up,” All Hallows coach John Carey said. “I think that’s how we were able to weather that [first-quarter] storm.”
When Alvarado (15 points) drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key that twice bounced off the rim and in, All Hallows led 49-40 early in the fourth quarter and the impossible suddenly was a reality.
“I would have liked that clock to run a lot faster,” Carey joked.
But Rice, which was able to rotate several players into the game, stepped up the defensive intensity and All Hallows couldn’t handle it. Turnovers led to easy layups and dagger 3-pointers. In a blink of an eye, the nine-point lead was a five-point deficit with less than four minutes to go.
“Our turnovers killed us [in the fourth quarter] and we weren’t disciplined when they were pressuring us,” Alvarado said.
The Gaels ran out of gas late and Rice will head to the championship game against Christ the King on Sunday knowing it survived a war. All Hallows didn’t win, but it earned the respect of everyone at Carnesecca Arena Wednesday night.
“We played hard, no one expected us to be that close,” Stores said. “They just started making shots at the end and we just started having some turnovers.”