It is not often that payback is a tool the Hope Christian boys basketball team needs on its way to victory.
But the Huskies (11-6) did just that Saturday in the finals of the Hope tournament against St. Pius (10-6).
The Sartans came away with a one-point, overtime victory in the Rio Rancho tournament last month. But this time it was Hope’s turn to get the one-point win, 56-55.
“That feels awesome,” said Hope post Jett Wyckoff, who scored 23 points. “Especially because they beat us about two weeks ago in the Rio Rancho tournament. So that feels awesome.”
Wyckoff got the game-winning points, driving through the paint for a layup and foul with 14.9 seconds remaining.
“Coach (Jim) Murphy didn’t really set anything up. He just said he had confidence in me so I just took it and got the bucket,” said Wyckoff, who attributed his success to lonely evenings practicing. “All those nights in the gym, working hard when no one was watching. I was born for this, I guess.”
The Huskies led 29-14 midway through the second quarter before St. Pius closed the half with a 7-1 run. St. Pius then chiseled away throughout the third quarter and finally took its first lead early in the fourth quarter, carried by big men Brian Kalb, who had 19 points, and Gene Trujillo, who had 17.
“I thought they made a little half-court trap, a little more of a zone defense,” Murphy said. “And we were doing a good job on their man defense getting good shots, but then we started taking some bad shots which led to them getting easy baskets down on the other end. They have the two big guys on the inside; I was proud of our bigs to be able to handle them (Saturday) but they started chipping away at our lead, they starting clogging the rim.”
HOPE CHRISTIAN 69, ARTESIA 48: Huskies guard Alyssa Vigil scored 27 points, backcourt mate Charlotte Bitsoih added 13 and the two each hit huge 3-pointers in the closing seconds of the third quarter to turn a tight Hope (12-6) lead of 38-36 into a late runaway over the Bulldogs (10-7).
“We knew with that zone, we would have to find our spots to shoot well. We didn’t shoot well in the first half. Sometimes it feels like there’s a lid on the basket. But once you hit a couple, it felt great,” said Hope coach Michael Cole, adding the third-quarter bombs were the difference. “It was huge, not just because it create separation, but because it gives those girls confidence.”
Hope post Kathleen Obisike added 17, which helped open the outside.
“Kathleen, I think she’s an elite post,” Cole said. “I think she’s up there with the best in the state. She gets a lot of accolades but these guards, I think they can play on any team in the state, as well.”