WCA, Holy Cross boys to play in NVL final

Jeremiah Williams made some big shots for WCA in its tight NVL boys basketball semifinal win over Wilby on Monday night in the Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

The Naugatuck Valley League boys basketball tournament semifinal round produced two close games with nearly identical final scores.

The end result Monday night at Wilby High School is that No. 1 and No. 2 will play for the tournament title. WCA will be going for a repeat after holding off No. 4 Wilby on its home court, 63-57. In the first game, Holy Cross squeaked past Crosby, 64-58. The Crusaders are in their first final since 2020, when they fell to Naugatuck. The final is Wednesday night at 7 o’clock back at Wilby inside the Reggie O’Brien Gymnasium.

In both games, the higher seed built a sizable lead in the third quarter, only to see the lower seed rally. Here’s more on each game:


After an even first half in the first semifinal (30-30), Holy Cross scored the first 14 points of the third quarter to snatch a 44-30 lead. It took Crosby until 1:40 remaining in the period to score its first point, a D.J. Melendez foul shot. Micah Blackman added three free throws to get the score to 44-34. The Crusaders twice got their lead back into double digits, only to watch the Bulldogs respond. A Nevin Kinsey 3-pointer made the score 46-37. After Daelyn Roscoe scored on a fast break for Holy Cross, Jayden Benjamin somehow drove all the way uncontested for a layup before the third quarter buzzer. The Crusaders led, 48-39, after three quarters.

Benjamin scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to get the Bulldogs to within 48-41. Holy Cross built two more seven-point leads, only to see Crosby slice into it. When Curtis Ellis swished a 3-pointer at the 1:10 mark, the Crusader lead was just two, 54-52.

Holy Cross used great ball movement to nail a backbreaking 3-pointer. Elijah Parker passed to Jordan Gunthrop on the right wing. Gunthrop made the extra point to Zy Harge in the corner, and the Crusaders’ unsung hero buried a corner 3 for a 57-52 lead with 57 ticks on the clock. Parker converted a pair of free throws – no sure thing the last two games in general for Holy Cross – and a 59-52 advantage at 32.3 seconds left. 

Kinsey rained home a 3 for Crosby to get his team to within 59-55. Gunthrop made one of two free throws, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to get closer. Harge stepped up and made both of his free throws with 10.6 seconds left. Kinsey made another 3-pointer to get the score to 62-58. With just seconds remaining, Gunthrop hit a streaking Parker with a chest pass on an inbound and Parker slammed it with one hand for the game’s final margin. Parker finished with a game-high 26 points while Harge tallied 18, according to Chris Saunders, who did the play-by-play for both games for the Waterbury Public Schools athletics YouTube channel.

NO. 1 WCA 63, NO. 4 WILBY 57

Another semifinal, and another tie game at halftime. This time, the score was knotted at 33-all.

Wilby grabbed a 37-36 lead on a Louis Howard 3-pointer, but WCA ripped off the next nine points, with most coming off of second and third opportunities. When Jonovan Bracey drove for a layup, the Spartans led, 45-37. WCA held two more eight-point leads, but they didn’t last. After Dylan Rossi converted a pair of free throws for a 50-42 lead, the Wildcats ran off the final 11 points of the quarter. A Jouseph Nieves corner 3 in the final seconds of the period gave Wilby a 53-50 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

After Drew Williams opened the fourth quarter scoring with a pair of free throws, unsung hero Zyair Moreno sandwiched two baskets around a Hikim Trueheart free throw for a 56-54 lead.

Wilby lost one of its guards when Juny Gerena was fouled by WCA’s Zaire Lott while going up for the tying layup with 4:47 to play. Gerena landed hard on his right hand and didn’t return to the game. He left the court after the game with an ice bag on his hand.

Freshman Byron Morillo was chosen to shoot the free throws and made one of two to get Wilby to within 56-55. That was as close as the Wildcats got.

With the shot clock winding down, Jeremiah Williams drove in from the wing and scored for a 58-55 lead. Trueheart made a free throw for Wilby, Moreno sank one for WCA, and Howard hit another for the Wildcats to make the score 59-57.

The Spartans needed a big play to hold off the Wildcats, and the NVL’s top senior provided it. Drew Williams snatched an offensive rebound and scored to make it 61-57. A steal by Lott and flush by Bracey in the waning seconds provided the game’s final margin. Jeremiah Williams scored 19 points and Drew Williams had 18. Trueheart led Wilby with 15 points before fouling out, and Howard added 13.

WCA and Holy Cross each won in the opposing team’s home gym during the regular season. The third meeting comes on Wednesday.