HARTFORD — Bowing out of the CIAC state tournament in the opening round with a 22-point loss on your home floor is not something easily forgotten.
In fact, for a proud program like Wilbur Cross, it sticks in your collective craw. The question is, how do the Governors respond for the 2017-18 season? If Saturday’s season opener is any indication, the response could be really good.
Cross forced 24 turnovers to hammer Hartford Public 77-51 at Stan Ogrodnik Court on the campus of Trinity College. The game was part of the third annual GHPA Spirit of Doc Classic.
“We took it really personal. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Antrum, the game MVP with 14 points and 10 rebounds, about last season’s first-round loss to Fairfield Prep.
After Sherman Perry hit a three-point shot to begin the third quarter for Public, the Governors scored the next 16 points to put the Owls away. They forced 10 turnovers with their pressure defense in the quarter alone.
On three straight possessions, Cross forced turnovers that led to three fast-break points and end that run at 54-29.
“We always try and put pressure on the ball and try to take advantage of it (turnovers),” Antrum said. “Kwane (Taylor) does a good job of forcing the defense to the sideline.”
Said Wilbur Cross coach Kevin Walton: “We ask Kwane to lead us, control tempo both offensively and defensively. He did a good job of applying pressure and other guys fed off him. We have guys who can put the ball in the basket, but defense is going to be our calling card.”
This was the first game for Hartford Public coach Joe Lombardo, a longtime assistant under Kurt Reis, now at New Britain.
“(Cross) is probably one of the top teams around. They will give people fits. Antrum is a player and he makes other kids better,” Lombardo said. “But the sad thing is, we quit (in the third).”
Lombardo and Reis square off on Tuesday night. Then the Owls have Newington, East Hartford, and New London on the road before coming home to face Windsor.
“We graduated five seniors from last year,” Lombardo said, “We’re young, we’re trying to figure some things out, trying to find commitment. That’s commitment of coming to practice all the time and doing the right things.”
The trio of Antrum, Taylor (14 points) and Jaykeen Foreman (eight rebounds) are the key veterans for Cross. But they have help. Joel Pullen finished with a game-high 19 points including a trio of three-pointers.
“He was getting his feet wet tonight. We are expecting big things from Joel,” Walton said.
Cross scored the first five points and never trailed against Public. The Governors led by as many as 15 (33-18) in the first half.
Now Cross gets Hillhouse, ranked fourth in the Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 preseason poll, on Wednesday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center. Speaking of things that stick in your craw, Hillhouse won by 40 in the last matchup of Elm City rivals.
“There is no downplaying the significance of the game no matter when you play them, it’s a big game for the kids, a big game for the schools, the city wants it, so regardless of when you play it, you have to be prepared to play,” Walton said. “With that said, it’s going to be measuring stick. Hillhouse is the two-time defending champs. We have to come out with a good showing and we expect to do so. If we complete, the rest will take care of itself.”
WILBUR CROSS 77, HARTFORD PUBLIC 51
HARTFORD PUBLIC 12 14 5 20—51
WILBUR CROSS 19 19 21 18—77
HARTFORD PUBLIC (51)
Josh Colon 2 0-0 6, Jaquan King 3 4-5 11, Elijah Drummond 0 1-2 1, Ferguson Louis 4 1-2 9, Abel Navarcz 0 4-4 4, Armani Gonzalez 2 0-1 5, Mark Fenty 0 3-6 3, Ismael Moore 1 0-0 2, Sherman Perry 2 0-0 5, Zargus Rodriguez 2 0-0 6. Totals: 16 13-20 51.
WILBUR CROSS (77)
Kwane Taylor 6 1-1 14, William Antrum 6 1-1 14, Terrance Edwards 1 0-2 2, Jose Feliciano 1 0-1 3, Nas Jones 3 0-0 8, Joel Pullen 9 2-2 19, Jaykeen Foreman 3 1-2 7, Darius Esdaile 2 0-0 4, Jaleem Sayles 1 0-0 2, Jarin Smith 1 0-0 2, Neiko Reid 1 0-0 2. Totals 34 5-9, 77.
3-pointers: Cross 8 (Pullen 3, Jones 2, Felicnao, Antrum, Taylor); Public 6 (Colon 2, Rodriguez 2, Gonzalez, Perry).