— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) March 16, 2016
DANBURY >> Wilbur Cross was less than 5 minutes from reaching its first state semifinal in three seasons, a date with city rival Hillhouse with the Elm City fans flocking to the Floyd Little Athletic Center Thursday night to watch.
Instead, it was No. 2 seed Danbury with the fourth-quarter comeback to stun No. 7 Wilbur Cross 73-65 before a sellout crowd of just about 1,000 at home Tuesday night.
“We’re Wilbur Cross, it’s (champion)ship or bust,” Wilbur Cross coach Kevin Walton said. “Any time we don’t win a championship, there is a level of disappointment. I will say that as long as I sitting in the chair (as head coach). … Unless you have played this game or coached this game, you don’t understand how hard it is to win that championship.”
The Governors’ last state title came in 1985.
Tenth-ranked Cross (21-5) fell behind 7-0 to start but was ahead by halftime. The Governors led the entire third quarter and were up 55-52 in the final quarter with 4:30 left.
Then the Hatters (23-3) hit the Governors with a 13-0 run from which Cross never recovered.
“We just wanted to get a hand on every shot. We wanted to make sure on our offensive end that we played at our tempo,” said Scott Nesbitt, who scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Now Danbury, the last remaining team from the FCIAC, faces third-seeded Hillhouse Thursday at Crosby High in Waterbury at 7 p.m. for the right to get to the final at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
“The semis aren’t good enough, we want to make it to the Sun,” Nesbitt said. “The motivation is to keep coming to practice every day and keep playing hard knowing that we have a chance to make it to the Sun.”
Said Danbury coach Casey Bock: “These kids have a lot of heart I have four great seniors who don’t want their season to end.”
The Governors went over 3 minutes without scoring during that crucial stretch in the final quarter. They had shot just 1 for 4 from the free-throw line in the quarter, 5 for 14 overall.
“Basketball comes down to rebounding, turnovers and free throws, and they definitely won those departments,” Walton said.
Marcus Fox added 20 points for the Hatters, which scored 21 points in the final 4:15.
Robert Durant came off the bench to score 11 points in his final game for the Governors. The forward injured his right ankle in the opening minutes of Cross’ first-round win over Hartford Public and didn’t play again until Tuesday.
“I think by standards of points and rebounds and accolades, he had a heckuva career,” Walton said. “Now Robert has to take the next step and decide what kind of basketball player he wants to be. He has all the physical tools and the basketball IQ. Now it’s a matter of if he wants to get in the gym and put in the work. If he does that, there’s no limit to what the young man can do.”
Jaykeen Foreman led Cross with 12 points while Will Antrum and Kwane Taylor had 11 and 10, respectively. All three players return next season.
DANBURY 73, WILBUR CROSS 65
Wilbur Cross 12 18 19 16 – 65
Danbury 17 12 15 29 – 73
WILBUR CROSS (65)
Malik Alston 3 0-0 9, Jayden Valderama 3 0-0 8, Jaykeen Foreman 6 0-2 12, Kwane Taylor 3 4-6 10, Justin Wagner 2 0-0 4, William Antrum 4 0-0 11, Robert Durant 5 1-6 11, Marquay McDuffie 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 5-14 65
Massiah Crandell 2 1-2 5, Judah James 2 3-4 8, Titus James 0 0-0 0, Tyren McCrea 2 4-6 9, Pierre Moudouron 3 2-3 8, Scott Nesbitt 7 6-10 21, Marvin Payton 0 2-2 2, Marcus Fox 7 6-7 20. Totals: 23 24-34 73
3-point goals: Wilbur Cross 8 (Alston 3, Valderama 2, Antrum 3); Danbury 3 (James 1, McCrea 1, Nesbitt 1); Fouled out: Wilbur Cross (Wagner, Alston, Durant); Records: Wilbur Cross 21-5; Danbury 23-3
Highlight video via Sportzedge.com.