By Jim Bransfield
MIDDLETOWN >> It’s a basketball axiom that in a close game, the first few minutes of the second half are crucial. The latest piece of evidence of that came Friday night at Xavier’s Art Kohs gym when Wilbur Cross hit the Falcons with a 9-0 run to start the second half to blow the game open.
The Governors went on to an easy 67-46 win in front of a crowd of 500, handing Xavier its third loss in its last four games.
“We got off to a slow start, but we came back from 14 down to get to within two just before the half,” said Xavier coach Mike Kohs. “We recovered very well. But then the kid banks one in just before the half on a three-pointer, then they hit us with a 9-0 run to open the second half.
“That killed us.”
Xavier never led. The Governors opened the game with a 6-0 run and led 21-12 at the first turn. Cross’ two stars, Josh Fleming and Chan Williams-Bey led with 10 and nine points respectively.
But Xavier got off the deck and on a basket by Elijah Pemberton (18 points) with 1:14 to play in the half, Xavier had the lead down to 26-24. But Daryl Stokes hit the buzzer-beating trey to give Cross a 29-24 lead at the break, which was a hint of what was about to hit the Falcons.
Wilbur Cross (15-5) led by as many as 16 in the third and led 50-36 after three. The Governors poured it on from there.
“I thought we played well in spurts,” said Cross coach Kevin Walton.”Right now we’re looking for defense and giving up 46 points is maybe too many.
“Fleming [23 points] is our spark offensively and he and Williams-Bey [18 points] give us a good 1-2 punch. But everybody knows about them, so we’re looking for the next two or three guys to step up both offensively and defensively. I thought Stokes gave us some very good minutes off the bench.”
Robert Durante was also in double figures for Cross.
Xavier (13-7) had Brandon MacPerson join Pemberton in double figures with 11.
“Our league is brutal,” said Kohs, whose team will play a Southern Connecticut Conference playoff game at home Thursday. “Fairfield Prep is above everybody, but Cross, Hillhouse, Notre Dame, Cheshire are all very good teams.”
Xavier was 17-for-43 from the floor for 39 percent, while Cross was a scorching 30-for-51 for 59 percent.