Worcester, MA (Sports Network) - Torey Thomas posted a career-high 28 points and six rebounds, as the Holy Cross Crusaders downed the Bucknell Bison, 74-66, to win the Patriot League Tournament title at the Hart Center.
These two teams met in the league title tilt for the third straight year and in the two previous games, the Charles Lee-led Bison topped the Crusaders each time.
However, this year it's Holy Cross headed to the NCAA Tournament.
Patriot League player of the year Keith Simmons scored 23 points for the Crusaders (25-8), who own a Patriot League-best five tourney crowns. They won three straight from 2001-03. Tim Clifford and Pat Doherty both added eight points in the game, played on the Crusaders' home floor, where they have gone a perfect 14-0 this year.
"I knew Bucknell was not going to die because all our games have gone down to the wire," Crusaders coach Ralph Willard said. "I have never coached two betters kids (Simmons and Thomas) in my entire life and I couldn't be happier."
John Griffin scored 15 points for Bucknell (22-9), which took out Navy and Army in the first two rounds of this event. Chris McNaughton netted 12 points, Donald Brown 11, and Justin Castleberry added 10 for the Bison, who have reached the championship game six times in their history and have won more than 20 games in the event.
The Bison rallied from a 19-point second-half deficit, but Holy Cross hit 16 straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"Nobody is going to take away from us the way we battled back in the second half," Bucknell coach Pat Flannery said. "I was so proud of how hard we worked."
The Crusaders started the second half on an 11-5 run for a 46-27 lead, but Bucknell answered on a 13-0 burst to cut it to 46-40. Darren Mastropaolo's bucket with 5:52 to go then tied the score at 53.
Holy Cross rattled off seven straight, ended by a Thomas trey, though, and cruised to victory on the back of its stellar foul shooting, finishing 23-for-26 (88 percent) from the charity stripe.
Simmons scored eight points on a 21-4 first-half Crusaders run, courtesy of a near ten-minute scoreless Bison stretch, and Holy Cross held a 35-22 halftime advantage.
Bucknell, which came into this contest riding a 14-game winning streak, a modern-day school record, owns a 25-20 lead in the all-time series, and the teams split a pair of meetings during the regular season with each winning on its home floor.
03/09 20:58:55 ET