Holy Cross boys pass road test at Wilby

Wilby’s Hikim Trueheart makes a pass during Wednesday night’s NVL boys basketball game against Holy Cross at the Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium. The Crusader defenders, left to right, are Jordan Gunthrop, Adrian Acosta, Daylen Roscoe (12) and Mason Rountree, background. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

It was frenetic at times, ugly and foul-filled at others, but Wednesday night’s NVL boys basketball game between Holy Cross and Wilby at the Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium was also a battle.

At least it was for the first three quarters. The Crusaders outscored the host Wildcats, 19-12, to pull away for a 74-65 win. Holy Cross improved to 5-2 while Wilby fell to 6-2 with its second straight loss. The Crusaders on the other hand have won four straight. Each side committed 19 team fouls. Wilby made 15 of 20 foul shots while Cross converted 12 of 18.

Holy Cross was led by a pair of junior guards, Elijah Parker and Jordan Gunthrop. Parker scored 26 points and affected the game all over the court. 

“It’s a luxury to have a player that’s as good as Elijah that’s as unselfish as Elijah. Any night, he’s going to score 30 points, 35 points, whatever it may be, but if guys are open or they’re putting pressure on him, he’s fine deferring and getting other guys involved, hitting the man on the break,” Crusader coach Ryan Olsen said. “He’s doing whatever it takes to win a game this year. He’s carrying us this year, and he’s doing a hell of a job.”

Gunthrop made his presence known with 24 points, including a game-high four 3-pointers. Gunthrop has always been a shooter, but more opportunity to play on after mistakes and a dose of confidence have made him one of the deadliest marksmen in the NVL. Sophomore guard Daylen Roscoe tallied 14 points to give the Crusaders three players in double figures. Holy Cross is a young team. They start four juniors and a sophomore, but Parker had the most returning experience by far as the others were reserves last year. The Crusaders play two seniors – Osahon Obasuyi and Sean Albert – but both come off the bench.

Holy Cross faced a stern test on the road. Wilby led, 12-11, after one quarter, but Cross surged ahead by as many as eight points twice in the second quarter before settling for a five-point advantage, 36-31, at halftime. The Wildcats caught the Crusaders at 40-40 and 43-43, and the home team trailed, 55-53, after three quarters.

Hikim Trueheart (15 points) had a chance to tie the game at 55 following a steal, but missed a layup. Gavin Perrone (8 points) hit a 3-pointer at the other end for a 58-53 lead. Louis Howard (team-high 20 points, 16 rebounds) brought Wilby back to 58-55, then answered a Perrone 2-pointer with one of his own to again make it a three-point game, 60-57.

In one quick 10-point burst, it was over for the Wildcats. The Crusaders ripped off a 10-0 run (Roscoe 5 points, Gunthrop 3, Parker 2) to build a 13-point lead. When Gunthrop made his fourth and final 3-pointer of the game, it was 70-57 and Wilby coach Al Piccolo was forced to call timeout at the 3:59 mark.

The Wildcats turned up the pressure and did get it back into single digits, but the Crusaders had enough wiggle room to seal the win. Brandon Beamon added 16 points for Wilby while Juny Gerena contributed nine points.

With the new three-tier system in the NVL, Holy Cross and Wilby don’t meet again in the regular season. The next time they could see each other is the NVL tournament.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Wednesday night’s game.