For a better part of five-plus minutes in the fourth quarter, Wilbur Cross had all the momentum and had held Hamden without a field goal. With 2 minutes, 28 seconds remaining, Hamden senior Yarliz Santiago changed everything.
Knocking down a 3-pointer to give Hamden a two-point lead, then following with another 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining, and draining the winning free throws, Santiago helped lead Hamden to a 53-51 Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision victory at Wilbur Cross Tuesday evening.
“We are a really strong-minded team,” Santiago said. “We all came together. We were able to stay together and come through.”
Santiago, who was in foul trouble for a majority of the contest, scored all eight of her points in the final 2:28 of the game.
“I used her (Santiago) as an example,” Hamden coach Amanda Forcucci said. “She was in foul trouble and she had to sit in the first half. Then she was in foul trouble and I had to sit her again in the second half. You never know when your team is going to need you. It is a lesson to the young kids. She was never taken out of her game. She was mentally tough. She was ready when called on.”
The Green Dragons entered the final quarter with a 41-33 lead, but watched as Wilbur Cross took a 42-41 lead on a bucket by Dejah Middleton with 4:56 remaining.
The lead would change hands as Hamden’s Rebecca Oberman-Levine sank a pair of free throws, and Wilbur Cross followed with a bucket by April Artis. Trailing by two, Cross freshman Jaylice Rosario hit a pair of baskets for a 48-46 Cross lead with 1:19 remaining.
Hamden’s Asya Brandon sank a pair of free throws to even the contest at 48, before Santiago drained a 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining for a 51-48 Hamden lead. Cross evened the game on a 3-pointer by Middleton with 13 seconds to go.
A foul on the ensuing play put Santiago o the free throw line, where she sank both shots with 11.9 seconds remaining for a 53-51 lead.
“I knew my team needed me,” Santiago said. “I can’t do anything about the past. I can only help my team going forward. Thinking about the past was not going to help. I had to focus on what I needed to do.”
For Cross, it was a case of missed shots inside throughout the contest and foul trouble which began immediately in the contest. Head coach Tyrees Thomas shuffled players in and out, but it was not enough to overcome.
“We were in foul trouble from the first half and that set us back,” Thomas said. “They came out aggressive. The better team won tonight. The past couple of games we have been turning it on in the fourth quarter. You can’t always do that. You have to play 32 minutes. We missed some open shots which hurt us.”
Hamden went on a 20-10 run in the second quarter to take a 30-23 lead to the half. A 9-0 run was the key as Hamden turned a six point deficit into a 19-16 lead on a basket and 3-pointer by Asya Brandon, who finished with 19 points for Hamden.
Diamond White and Oberman-Levine each had 10points for Hamden. Rayne Durant led Cross with 18 points, while Middleon added 14.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Yarliz Santiago — Hamden senior scored all eight of her points in the decisive fourth quarter, including a pair of free throws in the final seconds.
“I thought we responded. We never gave up tonight and that was big.”
— Hamden coach Amanda Forcucci