NEW HAVEN — In what looks to be a wide-open race to determine the top team in the Southern Connecticut Conference, count the defending champions as one of the contenders.
Junior Dereyk Grant made the most of his first career start at Wilbur Cross, finishing with 21 points to help the reigning SCC champs start out strong with a 65-50 win over Hamden.
“You are going to have to beat us. They understand the magnitude to go out and represent Wilbur Cross basketball every night,” Wilbur Cross coach Kevin Walton said. “If we do that, get them to compete on every play, whoever wants to take our title will have to beat us.”
Grant scored 16 of his points in the second half as the Governors pulled away from the Green Dragons in the fourth quarter.
“I got in my zone I never actually played like that before. It was an adrenaline rush,” Grant said.
Said Walton: “He is a talented offensive player. He is one of our guys who can get a bucket on his own and we are expecting a lot from him this year. … He is a person who we can go to when it is time to get a bucket.”
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This may have been Grant’s first start, but Walton recalled how important he was in a key moment as a sophomore. Grant made two clutch free throws — one after a timeout — with 9.2 seconds left to help give Cross a 67-65 win over Amity in the SCC tournament semifinals.
“Dereyk Grant is the future of this program,” Walton said at the time. “He has a big heart and we were confident he would knock those down. You are going to hear from that young man in the future.”
Daquan Goodwin added 14 points for the Governors. Add in Jacari Douglas, who transferred over from Hillhouse, and Cross has a trio of guards that can cause headaches for opponents all season long.
“Our guards at this point are our strength,” Walton said. “But we are going to need a complete, total effort. Learning what our strengths are defensively. We did a terrible job of keeping (Hamden guard Javon Chapman) out of the middle.”
Cross led Hamden 54-43 heading into the fourth quarter. Already in the bonus, the Governors spread the court. Hamden had to come out of its zone defense. Then the Governors put the game away.
Cross hit Hamden with an 11-0 run to go up 65-45. The Green Dragons went without a field goal for almost the first 6 minutes of the final quarter.
“We came out pretty strong (in the fourth quarter),” Grant said. “Coach got on us about being lazy and how we have to close out the game the right way.”
Chapman, a senior guard, led Hamden with 21 points, but just four in the third quarter and none in the pivotal fourth. Hamden also finished with 20 turnovers.
Player of the Game
Dereyk Grant, Wilbur Cross: Scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half to help Cross win its season opener.
We had some turnovers and they played very aggressively. They got some second shots, which shouldn’t happen. … We are going to get better as a team. We will be able to grow as a team, but it will be a work in progres.”
Hamden coach Jarrad Beck