NEW HAVEN >> Hillhouse boys basketball coach Renard Sutton rarely misses an opportunity to use a game as a gauge for the importance of March.
When you have won a CIAC-record 23 state championships, that comes with the territory. On Thursday, Sutton coached with high emotion from beginning to end like it was a state tournament game in March. The players? They responded to their leader.
Top-ranked Hillhouse once again turned the Elm City rivalry into a one-sided affair. Hillhouse demoralized Wilbur Cross 81-41 at the Floyd Little Athletic Center.
“Basically yes, we are getting ready for March,” Hillhouse guard Tyler Douglas said. “March is March Madness, that’s when the tournament comes and we want to win big and keep winning big and show everybody we are the No. 1 team in the state.”
The game was essentially over midway through the third quarter, a quarter in which Hillhouse (13-0) held Cross (9-4) to just five points — the same output Career had three days earlier against the Academics in the third quarter.
But unlike that game, when the Academics took their collective foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, allowing Career to get back within single digits, Hillhouse didn’t do that against Cross. By the time the starters did depart with 2:39 left, the Academics led 72-34.
“The guys asked me ‘Coach can we keep our foot on the gas, play the way we normally play?’” Sutton said. “I said, ‘As long as we defend, as long as we execute what the coaching staff put together, just play hard.’”
Said Wilbur Cross coach Kevin Walton: “It’s beyond that (embarrassment). To do that in front of legendary (former coach) Bob Saulsbury who came in here and lit into us, I think so. I’m really disappointed in the effort.”
Byron Breland had six points for Hillhouse, but none before the fourth quarter began. And Joey Kasperzyk missed his third straight game with a fractured wrist. But Hillhouse has so many other answers on offense.
Christian Adams had a game-high 24 points, Douglas and Devon Warner added 12 each and Mekhi Warren finished with 10.
“We are poised on defense, we take good shots and play together. There is no one-man show on this team,” Douglas said.
But Warren, who previously played at Maloney and Windham high schools before moving to New Haven, provides the inside presence the Academics need to be the ones left standing at the Mohegan Sun Arena. He had 10 rebounds against Cross.
“They (Cross) were trying to do the best they can, but it’s the ability I have (to rebound) that they can’t control,” Warren said.
Said Sutton: “We ask him to come in and rebound, do all the dirty work, ask him to protect the basket. He’s very, very important.”
So while Hillhouse rolled, how will the Governors rebound from this outcome?
“I’m very surprised that this happened tonight in terms of we gave up,” Walton said. “As a staff we are dumb-founded. We had a nice game plan, the kids had good practices. It will be one of those sleepless nights because I don’t know what happened.”
Jayden Valderama was the only player in double figures for Cross with 15 points.
HILLHOUSE 81, WILBUR CROSS 41
Wilbur Cross 11 9 5 16 – 41
Hillhouse 7 26 18 30 – 81
WILBUR CROSS (41)
Kwane Taylor 2 1-2 5, Malik Alston 1 0-0 2, Marquay McDuffie 0 4-6 4, Jaykeen Foreman 2 0-2 4, Joel Pullen 1 3-4 6, Jayden Valerrama 6 1-1 15, Neal Jones 0 1-2 1, William Antrum 2 0-0 4. Totals: 14 10-17 41
Rayshawn Brewer 1 2-2 4, Davon Warner 4 1-3 12, Tyler Douglas 5 1-2 12, Christian Adams 10 3-3 24, Jalil Wilkerson 3 0-0 8, Mekhi Warren 3 4-6 10, Byron Breland 2 2-4 6, Jordan Williams 0 0-2 0. Totals: 28 13-22 81
3-point goals: Wilbur Cross 3 (Pullen 1, Valerrama 2); Hillhouse 7 (Warner 3, Douglas 1, Adams 1, Wilkerson 2); Records: Wilbur Cross 9-4; Hillhouse 13-0.