Crusader boys outlast Wildcats as NVL Brass Division race tightens

The Holy Cross boys’ basketball team has been playing better lately, and the results have shown up in the win column.

It wasn’t easy on Friday night at the Tim McDonald Gymnasium, but the Crusaders outlasted Wilby, 63-55. Holy Cross improved to 11-2 (10-2 NVL, 3-2 NVL Brass Division) while Wilby fell to 11-3 (9-3 NVL, 1-3 Brass Division). The Crusaders are within a half-game of first place WCA in the division after the Spartans (12-2, 11-1 NVL, 3-1 Brass Division) lost for the first time in league play. Kennedy defeated WCA, 75-58, at the Jack Taglia Gymnasium, and the Eagles improved to 11-3 (10-2 NVL, 3-2 Brass Division).

Back to Holy Cross. The Crusaders held a seven-point lead at halftime, but erupted in the third quarter and more than doubled their advantage to 15 points, 47-32. Holy Cross scored the first four points of the fourth quarter and had its biggest lead of the game, 51-32, with 7:18 to go. The game seemed over, but no one told Wilby. The Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure, and the Crusaders started crumbling. When D.J. Melendez and Juny Gerena converted back-to-back layups, the score was 58-53. Holy Cross called timeout with 2:02 left on the clock.

Gerena later corralled a deflection by Khani Glenn and his jumper made the score 58-55 with 1:23 to go. An almost impossible comeback seemed possible for Wilby. Then Elijah Parker took over for Holy Cross.

Parker made one of two free throws to increase the lead to 59-55 with just under a minute left. After a Wildcat turnover, the left-handed sophomore scored off a press break and was fouled. Parker’s free throw completed the three-point play and put the Crusaders up, 62-55, with 38 seconds to play. Derone Fordham added a free throw for the game’s final point.

Parker, an electric player with a ton of potential, finished with a game-high 28 points. He scored in a variety of ways, including a 3-pointer and multiple drives to the basket. Parker got some help from teammates Peyton Mullins (8 points, two 3-pointers), Joe Dane (7 points) and Adrian Acosta (7 points).

Melendez led Wilby with 15 points. Brandon Beamon added 14 points and Glenn added 12 to make three players in double figures for the Wildcats. Gerena wound up with six points, as did Elijah Steward.

Holy Cross and Wilby play again on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium.

Other Brass Division action: The Kennedy-WCA matchup was close through three quarters with the homestanding Eagles holding a two-point lead over the Spartans after three quarters.

Kennedy put the game away with a blistering 26-11 fourth quarter and handed WCA its first league loss. Lennox Serrano (22 points), Hikim Trueheart (21) and Isiah Tucker (17) all hit double figures in a balanced Eagle attack. Terrance Morrison Jr. and Jabarie James helped out with six points each.

Drew Williams led three WCA players in double figures with 18 points. Sonny Pierce had 13 points, Jason Canady added 12 and Zaire Lott chipped in nine for the Spartans. Kennedy and WCA meet again this Friday at 7 p.m. at WCA.

Robinson reaches 1,000 points: Crosby senior Jason Robinson reached the career milestone during a 30-point, 15-rebound effort in his team’s 79-65 home win over Ansonia.

Vaughn Grubb (four 3-pointers) and C.J. McRae each had 12 points while Curtis Ellis tallied eight for the Bulldogs.

Caption: Holy Cross’ Elijah Parker fires a pass to Edwin Roberts during the second half of Friday night’s home boys basketball game against Wilby. The Crusaders held on for a 63-55 win over the Wildcats. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)