NEW HAVEN — Wilbur Cross has been on the wrong end of its share of results to Hillhouse over the years, including some big blowouts.
One of those blowouts occurred the last time the two teams met a month ago. To say head coach Kevin Walton was unhappy with how the Governors competed in that contest would be an understatement.
“The first time we played them, we didn’t compete with them. They were more physical than us and we kind of gave up,” Walton said. “That was the emphasis, to play a complete game and we will live with the results. … You have to have heart and passion to play this game.”
The Governors made sure they gave it their all from start to finish on Tuesday night at the Floyd Little Athletic Center. The result was a 58-50 win and a split of the season series between the Elm City rivals.
“Hillhouse and Cross has always been a big rivalry. (Those results) are taken more serious,” Cross guard Kyle Daniels said. “We have to continue playing as a team. If we continue playing as a team, we should win every game (for the rest of the regular season).”
Daniels recently scored his 1,000th career point, most of which happened during his time at Career. He had a game-high 20 points Tuesday.
And Hillhouse (9-8), which had its best performance of the season with that 26-point win against Cross (11-6) on Jan. 2, is still trying to figure things out in what has been a season to forget thus far.
“I think we probably are underachieving but I’m not surprised,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “Coming into the season, we only had two guys that had any varsity experience (Tazhon Daniels and Aiden Rountree).”
Cross built the lead to 12 points early in the second quarter and maintained its lead thanks to solid ball movement against Hillhouse’s zone, making its jump shots (50 percent from the floor in the first half) and gaining a decisive rebounding advantage (23-11 at halftime).
But Hillhouse was able to get something out of its defense in the second quarter. The Academics helped force six turnovers in the quarter and closed out the period on a 13-4 run to tie the game at 30 at halftime.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) February 6, 2019
Cross responded to start the third quarter, scoring the first three baskets and forcing a Hillhouse timeout. Within 5 minutes, the lead had ballooned to 11. The rebounding edge grew to 20 (33-13) for the Governors in the third quarter.
“The first three minutes (of the second half), we had to get them and then build up our confidence from there. And then we knew we were going to win,” Daniels said. “I think we wanted it more this time.”
Cross also benefited from poor shooting by Hillhouse: the Academics shot 1 of 17 from the floor in the third quarter.
“The emphasis was to be able to rebound, play good defense, know where their shooters were and push the ball,” Walton said. “I’m proud of the way our guys performed.”
The Academics shot and rebounded a little bit better in the fourth quarter, but not nearly enough to get back into it. The closest they came was seven points and then three of Hillhouse’s players — Daniels, Jacari Douglas and Turcone Kelley — all fouled out late.
Both teams are still jockeying for position and opening-round home games in the SCC tournament, which begins Feb. 21.
“We can (turn things around). The coach (Sutton) has to find the right personnel on the floor, and that personnel has to deliver, but we can turn it around,” Sutton said.