Holy Cross, whose only loss in 28 games last year came in the season finale, finally made partial amends for that defeat yesterday, holding off West Catholic of Philadelphia for a 59-54 win and the Georgetown Big Brothers girls invitational basketball title at Catholic University's Brookland Gymnasium.
All-Metropolitan forward Chrissy Reese, the tourney's most valuable player, tossed in 22 points and sure-handed guard Colleen McShalley handed out six assists as the top-ranked Tartans wound up their season with a 28-0 record. Their only setback a year ago - also in the Big Brothers championship - was at the hands of St. Maria Goretti of Philadelphia, 54-52.
"We had to live up to our reputation," said McShalley, a 5-foot-7 junior who was instrumental in dribbling through West Catholic's quick-trapping press in the second half. "Every team we've played this year has been up for us since we're unbeaten. It's been kind of tough. We've had to get high for every game."
West Catholic (22-4), the top-ranked girls team in the Philadelphia area, found itself with a decided height disadvantage and quickly fell behind as Holy Cross worked the ball inside to 6-footer Reese and 5-10 forward Carolyn Hodges. The two responded with six points each in the first quarter to help the Tartans to a 20-6 lead.
"We knew we were bigger, but they're awful quick," said Holy Cross Coach Bill Sheahan, whose three-year record at the Kensington school is 82-4. "Our main objective was to control the tempo. We figured if we tried to run with them, we'd have problems.
"We also wanted to go to the boards and control the Coyle sisters."
McShalley held Mary Coyle, the Burrmaids' 5-6 scoring threat who had 24 points in a semifinal win over Goretti, to a field goal in the first half. Twin sister Patty Coyle managed just seven points in the first half against the tandem guarding of Lori Marsden and Sharon Geiglein, and Holy Cross went to the locker room ahead, 32-19.
West Catholic's only serious threat came early in the fourth period, when Mary Coyle dropped in a pair of baskets and guard Renie Dunne added a field goal to cut the deficit to 45-40 with six minutes left.
Holy Cross, which outrebounded the Burrmaids, 38-19, the reeled off seven straight points and controlled the backboards to assume a 52-40 command with 3 1/2 minutes to play. West Catholic, held to just five rebounds in the second half while Reese was collecting nine herself, lost hope when forward Louise Crisanti - at 5-8 the Burrmaids' tallest player - fouled out with 3:11 remaining.
Only some accurate outside shooting by Mary Coyle, who finished with 16 points, brought West Catholic to within five in the final desperate moments. Patty Coyle, who also fouled out with 11 seconds left, finished with 15 points.
Reese, who scored 14 points in the first half, connected on 10 of 21 shots and grabbed 21 rebounds. Hodges, who had 10 rebounds, finished with 12 points and guard Annette Allor, the only senior among Holy Cross' starting five, tossed in 10. McShalley, who reaggravated a wrist injury in the first half and played the second half with it taped, scored five points.
In the consolation game, Goretti built a five-point halftime lead and held off O'Connell, 53-51.
McShalley and the Coyle twins were named to the all-tournament team along with Goretti's June Olkowski and O'Connell's Mary Denkler.