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Bassick boys turn back WIlbur Cross

January 16, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — It was the most anticipated game of the fourth annual Martin Luther King Classic, a matchup of Top-10 teams and rivals from two basketball-crazed cities.

And nobody who watched it will consider it an instant classic.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter to No. 8 Bassick, which held off No. 10 Wilbur Cross of New Haven 66-57 in the nightcap Monday at Webster Bank Arena.

“We just want to learn how to win,” said Bassick coach Bernie Lofton, whose team improved to 6-1 on the season. “We know within the course of the season we’re going to see all different types of games. We’re going to blow people out, and we’ll probably have to make comebacks. Maybe, like East Catholic, we’ll get blown out.

“Each game we play we’re going to learn.”

The Lions — whose lone loss was at the hands of No. 1 East Catholic, 78-42 — will remember their latest victory because of guard Qualon Wilkes. The senior sparked the Lions’ stagnant offense by scoring a game-high 19 points, including eight of the Lions’ 10 points during a stretch midway through the fourth quarter.

After Cross (7-2) pulled within 44-40, it was Wilkes who helped the Lions extend their lead to a game-high 14 points.

“Coach told me to just take over the game,” Wilkes said. “You’re a senior, you’ve been here before.”

Added Cross coach Kevin Walton: “He’s a player. Our strategy down the stretch was to try to keep the ball out of his hands.”

The Governors’ opportunity to pick up a marquee win fizzled at the free-throw line, where they connected on only 12 of their 32 attempts. Bassick, by comparison, hit only 12 of its 30 free throws.

“That’s the ballgame, right?,” Walton asked rhetorically. “I think they probably played a little harder than us, but that’s the ballgame.”

Bassick led 29-19 at halftime after Julio De Los Santos sank a shot at the buzzer. The Governors, however, were able to slice that lead in half midway through the third. And by the end of the quarter, they were in the double-bonus, trailing only 40-33.

William Antrum led Cross with 16 points, and Kwane Taylor scored 11. Kevin Crawford contributed 18 points for Bassick.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Qualon Wilkes, Bassick guard: The senior led all scorers with 19 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.

NOT AGAIN

Before Monday, Wilbur Cross’ only loss on the season was a 77-69 setback to two-time defending Class LL champion Hillhouse on Dec. 20. The Governors’ inability to hit free throws cost them that night, as they were just 17-for-35 from the charity stripe. “The two losses … free throws killed us both times,” Cross coach Kevin Walton said.

QUOTABLE

“Today was all about Martin Luther King. We did it for him. We brought out the black and white jerseys to honor him.” — Wilkes

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour