Xavier Crossed Out
By Sam and Tyler / February 4, 2008, 1:34 pm
As we traveled to Xavier High School Tuesday night, I wondered just how packed it would be at Artie Kohs’ gymnasium and by how much would Wilbur Cross win?
Fans filed in quickly, and we were surprised that at 5:45, about half the gym was full, mostly students. By 6:20, the doors were locked and the gym was packed. Xavier fans dominated their home gym, but there was certainly a contingent of loyal Cross fans who let everyone know they were ranked #1 in the state (by the local NH Register). Pre game, the Xavier band, occupying about one-third of one side of the gym’s sideline bleachers, played loudly and Cross fans danced; waving their index fingers at the rowdy Xavier students. The atmosphere was playoff like and perhaps a sign of what is to come in the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament.
Starters for X were Fitzpatrick, Bonner, Gavagni, Holley, and Tye. Wilbur Cross went with Wright, Pittman, Williamson, Rodriguez, and Norford. Despite the incredible energy brought on by a rowdy crowd, Quarter 1 was fairly slow. The first basket finally came with 4:53 to go in the quarter, a lay-up by Norford for Cross. As Wilbur’s defense stifled the Falcons and their PG Shawn Holley, the pace really didn’t pick up. Penetration by Xavier was limited, with Markus Wright lurking. Outside shots for both teams didn’t fall early on either. Wilbur Cross applied full court pressure and jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, and coach Kohs burned his first timeout. The lead reached 10-3 and Xavier turned it over as time expired in the first quarter. 10-3 Wilbur Cross after 1.
Fitzpatrick got Xavier going in the second quarter, with a lay in off a well-run play. Xavier seemed to start this quarter with a renewed energy, knowing they could hang with the Governors. Holley followed Fitzpatrick’s hoop to make it 10-7. Xavier had momentum and a crazy crowd behind it. Malik Bonner front rimmed a dunk on a fast break in traffic, and Wilbur followed with a bucket from #33 to stay in control at 13-9. Xavier continued to play well as the game continued to be low scoring. Dan Gavagni picked up his second with 1:34 left and had to sit for the remainder of the half. Wilbur Cross didn’t go inside any more without Gavagni, but continued to penetrate and dish, scoring mostly on lay-ups and put backs. Teams traded baskets and Fitzpatrick made the only three by either team of the half and Xavier took the lead. Cross’s pressure was still solid and at the half it was 18-17 Xavier.
Spoke to Razor at the half, seemed to wish he was at Sacred Heart/Crosby, which was 42-40 at the half, nearly double the scoring we saw in Middletown. Tmoney made the prediction the game would remain tight, with Wilbur Cross escaping. Xavier hoped to knock off a top 5 team for the second time in 2 weeks, Pittman and co. had other plans.
With good hands, jumping ability, and strength, Will Tye asserted himself all night on the boards, constantly battling Markus Wright for position down low. Tye scored on a put back just over a minute into the second half, giving Xavier a 3-point advantage. Wilbur answered and then Holley followed a Cross turnover with a lay in and then a 3 pointer second later off steal, to put the Falcons up 24-19 and send the Falcon faithful into a frenzy. Wilbur Cross however, stayed poised and didn’t call timeout. Cross missed a shot and Xavier came down and turned it over. Rodriguez threw a nice pass to a cutting Pittman for a lay-in. Teams continued to go back and forth and Wilbur Cross began to capitalize on Xavier turnovers. They got within one by quarter’s end, at 30-29. Play got a little sloppy in the third, but the pace picked up at times. It was tough to imagine how much of a non-factor Wright was. He was the biggest guy on the floor and cleaned the boards well, but failed to assert himself in the post. Tye played solid defense, but Wright appeared to be more athletic.
Going into the fourth, you could sense this game would come down to the wire. A reserve for Cross, Edward Murray, found himself open several times for lay-ins, scoring 8 in the fourth, ending with 12 overall. Wright picked it up, claiming almost every rebound. With its pressure defense continuing to cause problems, Wilbur Cross regained the lead, extending it to as much as 39-31 with 3:58 to go. A Malik Bonner runner in the lane, brought Xavier to within 3 at 39-36 and Wilbur Cross called a timeout. The timeout calmed things down a bit and the Governors hit 2 free throws to make it 41-36. Xavier answered with a 6-0 to steal the lead away from Cross. Two Malik Bonner buckets and a lay-in off a steal by Fitzpatrick led to a state of chaos. Wilbur Cross called a timeout, finding themselves down 1 in a blink of an eye, with 26 seconds to go. Jesse Pittman came right out of the timeout and found a wide open Markus Wright for a lay-in. Xavier came down the court, and in a bizarre series of events, coach Mike Kohs appeared to have his hands signaling timeout, but seemed to watch to see what Shawn Holley did before signaling he wanted the timeout. By the time he got things organized, and was granted a timeout, there were 3 seconds left. Holley dribbled at the top of the key, began to drive and referees called a reach in on Cross. 1 and 1 for Xavier as the crowd erupted! With a chance to tie and possibly take the lead, the gym was in a frenzy. The Xavier faithful cheered hoping their junior guard would bring them victory, while Cross fans booed the foul call. Holley seemed to rush a bit and his first shot rimmed out and in his panic to get his own rebound, he committed a lane violation. Cross was fouled before in bounding and hit 1 of 2 shots with 0.4 seconds left. The second shot was missed on purpose and the Governors escaped unscathed. The high scorer for Xavier was Will Tye with 13 while the high scorer for Cross was Edward Murray with 12.
The game had a March like feel. Although the teams both could have played better, the game was intense and jam packed with people. Throughout the year, people have said Trinity, Wilbur Cross, Windsor, Crosby, and another team (varying by week) are definitely the best in the state. As the journey through CT high school basketball continues, you can’t expect a louder, more intense game than the one Tuesday night on Randolph Road in Middletown.
Sam and Tyler are student interns for Bird’s Eye Sports
Sam and Tyler