NEW HAVEN — One of the teams Wilbur Cross knew it had to beat this winter to be considered among the Southern Connecticut Conference’s girls’ basketball elite was Hillhouse.
The Governors did just that Friday night, dominating their city rivals from start to finish with a 59-28 triumph before a full house at the Robert H. Saulsbury Gymnasium.
“I didn’t need a motivational speech,” Wilbur Cross coach Tyrees Thomas said. “This is a rivalry. If I need to give a motivational speech before playing Hillhouse, I don’t know what to tell you.”
— Dave Phillips (@davephillips41) January 4, 2020
Cross, which was ranked eighth in the preseason GametimeCT.com state poll, improved with 4-2 with the victory. The Governors’ only defeats have come to teams among the FCIAC’s best in a one-point defeat at the hands of defending Class LL champion Norwalk (53-52) at the buzzer plus a tight loss to perennial power Trumbull (67-59).
“That’s how I set the schedule up,” Thomas said. “I wanted to challenge our team early and measure ourselves up to get better.”
Cross only trailed once in the entire contest, 3-2, and that was for just 27 seconds.
The Governors then went on a 17-5 tear for the rest of the first quarter with April Artis (a game high 19 points) scoring nine points and Dejah Middleton eight to lead the charge.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Artis said. “We usually come out slow but this time we put our foot down.”
Hillhouse coach Catrina Hawley-Stewart said the Academics missed a lot of assignments, especially early.
“We have to learn to start the game out stronger and learn defensive assignments,” Hawley-Stewart said. We scouted them and told them Dejah Middleton (13 points) is a really good player. Plus, they were aggressive on the boards and got some putbacks. We have to fix that for the next time.”
Things got quite a bit sloppy in the second quarter as both teams had trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Rayne Durant had five points for Cross, which took a 26-12 edge at halftime.
The Governors pushed the lead to 24 points, 40-16, in the third quarter with an 9-0 run. Kandi Everette had a pair of baskets to lead the way.
And in the fourth quarter, Wilbur Cross added a 15-1 spurt, to take its biggest lead of the night, 57-25, with 2:17 remaining in the contest.
“Our size was too much for them down low tonight,” Thomas said.
Defense was also a key for the Governors all night as they never allowed Hillhouse to go on a big run.
“We were moving good, keeping our hands up and closing out,” Artis said.
Hillhouse (0-3) was led by Keyshan Johnson with seven points and Ryan Young with five.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
April Artis, Wilbur Cross junior guard scored 19 points, nine of them in the first quarter.
“Since they won the state championship last year and we lost to New London by free throws, we had to push it tonight.”
—Wilbur Cross guard April Artis.