Bruns lifts Xavier to win over Mount

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On June 5, 1999, New York Knicks forward Larry Johnson made one of the most improbable shots in New York basketball history, a 4-point play with 5.7 seconds left that gave the Knicks a one-point victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

On Wednesday at Xavier High School, only a short drive from Madison Square Garden, a similar incredible feat occurred.

“I had been off lately, so I didn’t want to think about it,” Xavier senior forward Bobby Bruns said. “I just let it go, and it felt good.”

Apparently, thinking is overrated.

With three seconds remaining, Bruns “just let it go” and knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer as he was smacked on the arm. The home crowd erupted and the Knights completed their stunning comeback over CHSAA Class A power Mount St. Michael, 53-52, surging from 11 down at the beginning of the fourth to take the lead for good on Bruns’ clinching free throw.

Xavier’s comeback bid began with a dunk by Euroy Smith to open up the scoring in the fourth quarter. The basket was the start of a 10-0 run to cut Mount St. Michael’s lead to 48-47.

“When we get good guard play and shoot well,” Xavier head coach Joe McGrane said, “we can win games.”

Xavier’s backcourt of Eddie Sullivan and Billy Hunter provided excellent guard play on both ends of the court, hitting shots and making pinpoint passes all over the gym floor. Their splendid play began in the first quarter when the Knights (10-6) ran out to a 14-3 lead, but they saved their best plays for the final minutes. They took turns quarterbacking the Knights’ counterpunching offensive attack throughout the fourth-quarter run.

Mount St. Michael junior wing Pete Aguilar ended that run by scoring on an impressive drive to the basket and a trip to the foul line on multiple possessions, widening the lead to 52-47. Those were the last points that the Mountaineers (15-3) would score. Aguilar finished with 18 points, but it was an output far below his gaudy 27-point average.

After a mid-range jumper from Hunter cut the Mountaineers lead to 52-49, Aguilar was put on the line with a chance to ice the game. His free throw danced around every inch of the rim before finally rolling off the right corner.

Chaos would soon ensue.

“It was a broken play,” McGrane said. “We thought he was going to make the free throws, our play was called for the make.”

But Hunter had the presence of mind to sprint the ball up the court to Bruns, a role player who has responded admirably to expanded playing time due to injury. Bruns’ game-winning heroics left him with 12 points for the game.

Hunter had 14 points and junior Eddie Sullivan added 13 for Xavier.

Standout point guard Malik Gill joined Aguilar in double figures with 10 points.

Injury notes: Xavier has played the entire season without three post players that McGrane projected to be major contributors. Two of them, Sean Carley (torn ACL) and Max Grunner (meniscus tear), are expected to miss the entire season. Bobby Gallagher is expected to return from a broken ankle at some point during the latter stages of the season.

Updated 5:08 pm, October 21, 2011
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