NEW HAVEN >> With a chance to beat the Hillhouse boys basketball team for the first time in his career, Wilbur Cross senior Josh Fleming passed on the deciding shot, instead trying to hit an open teammate.
Fleming ended up throwing the ball away at the end of regulation. With an overtime session to go, Fleming had a chance to redeem himself.
Fleming hit a turnaround jump shot early in overtime. Then teammate Anthony Miller did the rest, hitting six straight free throws to help Wilbur Cross knock off fifth-ranked Hillhouse 67-61 in overtime Thursday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center.
“We played our hearts out,” said Fleming, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “Coach (Kevin Walton) said, ‘That play is over. Keep your head up.’”
It was the first win by the Governors (8-3) over the Academics (8-3) since February of 2010 when Kermit Carolina (Hillhouse) and Anthony Hill (Cross) were the head coaches in this Elm City rivalry.
“There is no down-playing it. You play Hillhouse, it is a big game,” Walton said. “It’s big because of the city rivalry, it’s big because of seeding for the state tournament and the SCC tournament. It is a huge game.”
Cross did it with defense. The Governors held the Academics without a field goal for the final 7:52.
“We have to defend if we are going to have any chance of winning,” Walton said. “Raiquan (Clark) is a great player, we know that, Shane (Christie) is a really good player. We just wanted to try and force other people to beat us. If we are going to lose, we can’t lose to Raiquan and Shane.”
Clark had the ball in his hands on almost every Hillhouse possession in overtime but couldn’t deliver a basket, or even a single point. He finished with 10 points. Christie had seven points, all from the free-throw line, before fouling out in overtime.
“We noticed (Clark) likes baseline, so we put a help defender there to cut off the baseline,” Fleming said.
Cross held just one lead in the entire second half (34-33). Fleming’s 3-pointer tied the game at 58 with 28 seconds left in regulation.
Clark then missed two free throws for Hillhouse, setting up the final play of regulation.
“We had so many opportunities to win this game,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “We gave this one away. (Fairfield) Prep and Career actually came out and beat us. This one here, we gave away. I don’t have any answers for that. … It’s clear we will need the entire 20-game regular season to establish our identity.”
The free-throw shooting in overtime by Miller (15 points) masked the Governors’ overall deficiency from the stripe. They missed 20 free throws (23 of 43) and the two teams combined to miss 37.
“That will be the Achilles. If we are going to go down, it will be because of our free-throw shooting,” Walton said. “That bothers me. It’s not like we don’t work on it, We work on free throws every day.”
Troy Walters led Hillhouse with 12 points.
WILBUR CROSS 67, HILLHOUSE 61
Wilbur Cross 13 15 10 20 9 – 67
Hillhouse 17 14 13 14 3 – 61
WILBUR CROSS (67)
Michael Judkins 3 4-7 10, Jaelin Robinson 1 0-2 2, Chan Williams-Bey 3 3-4 10, Jaylin Fuller 2 0-0 4, Jamir Esdaile 0 0-0 0, Joshua Fleming 6 3-4 18, Anthony Miller 3 9-14 15, Robert Durante 2 4-12 8. Totals: 20 23-43 67
Wayne Whyth 0 2-2 2, Daquan Bowes 2 0-2 6, Dion Boyd 0 1-4 1, Corey Barrett 0 0-0 0, Troy Waters 3 3-4 12, Isaiah Lewis 1 0-0 2, Ellis Goodlow 2 0-0 4, Shane Christie 0 7-13 7, Raiquan Clark 3 4-8 10, Dontell Glover 4 3-4 11, Aaron White 3 0-0 6. Totals: 18 20-37 61
3-point goals: Wilbur Cross 4 (Williams-Bey 1, Fleming 3); Hillhouse 5 (Bowes 2, Waters 3); Fouled out: Wilbur Cross (Judkins); Hillhouse (Christie, White); Records: Wilbur Cross 8-3; Hillhouse 8-3