NEW HAVEN — So things didn’t look great after the season opener for the Hillhouse boys basketball team.
But if you counted out the Academics after just one game, you were sadly mistaken.
Hillhouse has won four straight since that opener against East Catholic. The 10th-ranked Academics cruised past Wilbur Cross 80-54 at the Floyd Little Athletic Center Wednesday evening.
“We got back in the gym, we worked together, people played their roles, everybody played their part and we came together,” Hillhouse guard Tazhon Daniels said. “We are trying not to lose like that again.”
Daniels led the way with 19 points, including 8 of 10 from the free-throw line. Turon Kelley and Aiden Rountree added 13 and 10 points, respectively, for Hillhouse.
— CT Sports Now (@CT_Sports_Now) January 3, 2019
Granted, Cross was the best team the Academics (4-1) have played since that loss. Hillhouse did it with its defense — helping force 11 first-half turnovers — to build a sizable lead by halftime (42-21).
“Honestly we are just growing game by game,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “Our guard play is getting better, our defense, our staple, is getting better and we are finally starting to hit a few shots.”
A lot of the Academics’ defensive focus was on Cross guard Kyle Daniels. A transfer from Career, Daniels had scored 32 and 30 points, respectively, in his first two games.
Khalel Francis and Jacari Douglas both guarded him when Hillhouse played man-to-man defense. When the Academics went zone, they collectively made sure he didn’t get very many open looks. Daniels finished with 10 points.
“We wanted to pay a lot of attention to him because we’ve seen in the last few games, he has been lighting it up,” Sutton said about Daniels. “When he is on the court, he’s in range (to score).We wanted to pay close attention to him.”
Said Tazhon Daniels: “The coaches told us to play hard defense and to play together. We knew (Daniels) was the threat and we watched him all throughout the game and tried to shut him down.”
Terrance Edwards led the Governors with 16 points while Enasj Jones added 15.
Cross was coming off a buzzer-beating loss to Hamden in last week’s Saulsbury Invitational.
A spirited 16-4 run by the Governors (1-2) late in the third quarter helped cut a 24-point deficit (51-27) down to 12 (55-43) heading to the fourth quarter.
“We are not good enough to get that far down against good teams,” Wilbur Cross coach Kevin Walton said. “It’s a matter of getting the guys to play with energy throughout the game. We have to be ready to play every minute of every game.”
Both teams were in the shooting bonus early in the final quarter, then the double bonus. Two players fouled out from each team.
The Academics regained control of the game and turned it into a convincing rout.
“Defensively we started gambling a little but and not rebounding as hard as we should have,” Sutton said about the third quarter. “When they started getting back to the way the coaches want them to play, we pushed the lead back up.”
The rematch is on Feb. 5. The two teams split during the last regular season.
Sutton had no comment on the status of Dalgorys Flete, who was not in uniform for the game.
Hillhouse 80, Wilbur Cross 54
Wilbur Cross (1-2-0) 8 13 23 10 — 54
Hillhouse (4-1-0) 16 26 13 25 — 80
Wilbur Cross (1-2-0)
Derek Grant 1 0 2-4 4, Enasj Jones 2 2 5-7 15, Kyle Daniels 2 2 0-0 10, Darius Esdaile 0 0 4-4 4, Terrance Edwards 5 0 6-13 16, Tyron Clemons 1 0 0-1 2, Reid Neiko 1 0 0-0 2, Jaleem Sayles 0 0 1-3 1
Aiden Rountree 2 1 3-3 10, Cincere Lash 4 0 1-4 9, Jacari Douglas 0 0 4-6 4, Evan Alexander-Scott 2 0 0-0 4, Turcone Kelley 5 1 0-0 13, Janden Satchell 0 0 2-2 2, Gregorio Chambers 0 1 2-2 5, K. Francis 0 3 2-2 11, Tazhon Daniels 4 1 8-10 19, Kinard Fuller 1 0 1-6 3