HAMDEN — Things weren’t going right for Wilbur Cross until midway through the third quarter.
The Governors (7-1), ranked ninth in the latest GametimeCT.com state boys’ basketball poll, had allowed Hamden to control things inside the paint which enabled the host Green Dragons to take a double-digit lead in front of a packed crowd.
Trailing for most of the first 24 minutes, Wilbur Cross turned things around from that point on and outscored host Hamden, 31-14, in the final 15:11 en route to a 65-58 victory in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision clash Friday night.
“I had to get the win tonight with Coach Kev out of town,” said Wilbur Cross assistant coach Gerald McClease Sr., who handled things for head coach Kevin Walton, who was away on business. “I couldn’t lose. It’s my first varsity win as a coach, I’m pretty happy and my team is pretty happy.”
Trailing, 44-34, with 7:11 remaining in the third quarter, Wilbur Cross stepped up the pressure defensively and wouldn’t allow Hamden to get anything inside the paint as it had for first 17 minutes.
Finally, the Governors closed out the third quarter with a basket by Dequan Goodwin (21 points) to deadlock things at 50-50 with 31 seconds remaining in the period.
“We went to our 1-2-2 halfcourt zone and we had to make it more difficult for them to get the ball inside easily,” McClease said. “In the first half, we were kind of soft, but in the second half, we came out with more intensity. We were trying to speed up their decision-making process.”
Wilbur Cross junior guard Dereyk Grant, who led all scorers with 24 points, canned a three-pointer from the right side and a pair of free throws to give the Governors the lead for good in the opening 1:03 of the fourth quarter.
From there, the Governors took what they discussed at halftime to heart.
“We went in the locker room and had to dig deep on what we were doing wrong,” Grant said. “We came out with more intensity and played the game we needed to play.”
Darius Esdaile (10 points) added a layup and Goodwin had a basket to give Wilbur Cross its largest lead of the night, 59-50, with 4:34 remaining.
“We got really selfish with the ball and it affected us emotionally,” Hamden coach Jarrad Beck. “We tried to reinvent the wheel. We stopped doing what we had been doing.”
Hamden’s Michael Greene (13 points) hit four straight free throws to cut it to 59-54 with 2:58 to play, but the five-point margin was the closest the Green Dragons would get as they were forced to send Wilbur Cross to the free throw line.
Hamden (4-4) was led by Williams and Heston Tucker with 15 points apiece.
“It’s a tough loss,” Beck said. ‘We needed to be better decision makers.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Wilbur Cross guards Dereyk Grant and Dequan Goodwin combined for 45 of the Governors’ 65 points. Grant had 24 and Goodwin 21.
“We knew it was going to be a real personal game because we beat them at home (65-50), so we wanted this one,”
— Wilbur Cross guard Dereyk Grant