NEW HAVEN >> If there was still any debate over which school currently fields the best boys basketball team in the Elm City, it is over.
Career, ranked third in the Register top 10 poll, led from start to finish Tuesday in a 67-53 win over sixth-ranked Wilbur Cross at the Floyd Little Athletic Center.
It was the second time the Panthers (13-1) have beaten the Governors (10-4) this season, both times by double digits. Career also owns a victory over Hillhouse this season.
“They play hard and leave it on the court 99.9 percent of the time. You can’t ask for any more as a coach,” Career coach Larry Kelley said.
The Panthers clinched at least a tie for the SCC Oronoque Division title. Cross was the defending champion.
“We have the most heart. We don’t worry about anything. We just keep playing,” said forward Jordan Lomax, who finished with a game-high 13 rebounds.
The Governors’ saw their seven-game winning streak come to an abrupt end. Cross head coach Kevin Walton was so frustrated by his team’s effort, he took the Governors back to the high school for a practice — the first time the Governors have practiced after a game this season.
“We tell them all the time, adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it,” Walton said. “It revealed something about my team, and we have to try and find a way to rectify it right now.”
Career scored the game’s first seven points. Cross stayed close for the better part of three quarters, but Amos Ford (13 points) buried back-to-back 3-pointers at the tail-end of the third quarter, the latter putting the Panthers ahead 50-37.
“He is a lot better than people give him credit for,” Kelley said about Ford. “He is one of the better players in the state when you talk about all-around defense and rebounding from his position. He is probably the best rebounding guard in the state, I think.”
Ford also guarded Josh Fleming the entire game. A senior guard averaging 15.8 ppg coming in, Fleming finished with seven points and just one basket.
“I wanted to be on his hip when he caught the ball,” Ford said.
Said Lomax: “We had to worry about containing Josh, and Amos contained him. If he gets off, the whole team gets off. They all feed off him.”
Fleming spent part of the game on the bench, as did other seniors.
“Guys you see sitting are seniors,” Walton said. “You expect your seniors to be hungry and to lead by example. Instead of reacting to adversity in a positive way, they resorted back to their old ways.”
Mike Judkins led the Governors with 13 points. Judkins scored the first basket of the fourth quarter off a steal. Then, like he did in the first game against Career, he picked up a quick technical foul. Walton sat him the rest of the game.
“When I took this job, I said we would teach these kids how to be responsible young men,” Walton said. “Michael has to learn he can’t react in that fashion. He makes a great play, a play that we needed and then he costs us. He’s a great kid with a great heart who plays hard, but this is the second time he has done it.”
Tyrell Eaddy led Career with 14 points.
CAREER 67, WILBUR CROSS 53
(at New Haven)
Wilbur Cross 12 12 13 16 – 53
Career 16 11 23 17 – 67
WILBUR CROSS (53)
Robert Durante 0 2-6 2, Jamir Esdaile 3 2-4 9, Joshua Fleming 2 3-4 7, Jaylin Fuller 0 0-0 0, Michael Judkins 4 5-8 13, Tyvon Bradley 2 0-0 4, Anthony Miller 2 0-3 4, Jaelin Robinson 1 1-3 3, Chan Williams-Bey 5 1-3 11. Totals: 19 14-31 53
Amos Ford 5 1-5 13, Tyreek Perkins 4 1-2 12, Tyrell Eaddy 3 7-8 14, Dan Ampofo 2 0-0 5, Matt Hamilton 1 2-6 4, Justin Campbell 3 2-3 8, Jordan Lomax 3 2-3 9, Justice Phifer 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 15-27 67
3-point goals: Wilbur Cross 1 (Esdaile 1); Career 8 (Ford 2, Perkins 3, Eaddy 1, Ampofo 1, Lomax 1); Fouled out: Career (Campbell, Phifer.); Records: Wilbur Cross 10-4 (4-2 SCC Oronoque); Career 13-1 (6-0)
Notes: Techncial fouls: Career coach Larry Kelley, Judkins.