NEW HAVEN >> Now you can put Hyde Leadership in the conversation among the many teams with a legitimate chance to win the Shoreline Conference boys basketball tournament later this month.
The Howling Wolves built a 15 point lead late in the third quarter, then held off a furious rally from Valley Regional down the stretch to edge the Warriors, 73-72, in front of raucous crowd at the Fair Haven School in New Haven.
“We’ve been playing pretty well up until this point,” said Hyde coach Steve Jefferson, now in his 17th season. “But this victory tonight definitely helps considering the fact that Valley was the top team in the conference coming into tonight’s contest. It was just another battle and we were severely tested. But I’m happy with the outcome, no doubt about it.”
Sophomore guard Carl Edwards poured in a game-high 29 points, while senior forward Charles Tyson scored 21 points for Hyde (8-4).
Valley Regional (10-4) was led by junior forward Nash Eppard, who scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and seniors Chris Jean-Pierre (18 points) and David Bradbury (16 points).
The Warriors, who were Class S finalists a year ago, were coming off an 81-69 non-league defeat against Ledyard.
“All these games count and they’re all really important,” Valley Regional coach Kevin Woods said. “You want to position yourself in the Shoreline and state tournament and we failed to do that tonight. I give my guys credit for coming back but this is not the performance you wanted coming off the Ledyard game.”
Still, the Warriors had a chance to win it at the end.
Hyde missed 13 free throws in the fourth quarter – including two with 11 seconds left that gave Valley the last possession.
Jean-Pierre dribbled up court and found senior forward Phil Dee open in the corner. Dee misfired on a 3-point attempt and senior guard Evan Smith’s hurried follow-up also fell short at the buzzer.
“We were looking to dribble penetrate and maybe get a look with Chris and draw the defense in,” Woods explained. “But Phil was open. It’s a shot he knocks down quite often and it didn’t go in tonight but I’ve got all the confidence in the world with him shooting that shot in the future.”
Hyde led 20-18 after the first quarter when Tyson beat the buzzer with a top-of-the key trey.
The Howlng Wolves, who also got some great minutes from Adam Beaton, Jabari Tinney, Ty Sheats, Tyree Wells, Sunday Okuneye, and Chris Maddox, never trailed the rest of way, and built a 38-29 halftime advantage.
“We played with a lot of enthusiasm,” Jefferson added. “Our approach was to defend, push the ball and be aggressively smart and I think we did that for the most part.”
Hyde extended its lead to 50-35 late in the third quarter as Edwards, who scored 12 points in the third, continually drove into the lane and created matchup problems for Valley.
“Edwards is a young player who is maturing,” Jefferson said. “I think he’s one of the top sophomores in the state.”
The Warriors rallied in the fourth behind the outside shooting of Jean-Pierre and Bradbury, who drained consecutive treys that closed the gap to 65-62 with 3:50 remaining.
Okuneye sank two key free throws to give Hyde a 73-65 cushion with just 40 seconds left.
And despite some turnovers and missed free throws, Hyde held on at the end.
“It was a little feast or famine and both teams were getting after it,” Jefferson said. “But like I just told our guys, we didn’t do a very good job down the stretch so that’s something we’re going to have to work on moving forward. You’re not going to win many games like that. We’re pretty fortunate to come out with a victory.”