MERIDEN — Forget the missed shots, turnovers and lack of offensive execution. When it came down to excitement Tuesday night, the Platt and Maloney basketball teams delivered.
For the second time this season, Maloney came out on top of its cross-town rival. And for the second straight game, it came down to a single possession.
The Spartans ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Panthers 65-61 on Senior Night in Maloney’s Benjamin P. Nessing gym. Vincent Martinez’s layup at the buzzer provided the final score, and largest lead Maloney ever owned in the game.
On the other side, Platt led by seven at halftime and extended its lead to 10 on Anthony Lorenzo’s 3 to start the fourth quarter. But Maloney stormed back on an 11-1 run to tie the game 56-56 with 3:58 to play.
And from then on, it was Maloney that made the winning plays, just like it did back on Jan. 18 when it beat Platt 58-57. In that game, the Panthers had a chance to win the game at the buzzer.
Devine Ransom, who led Maloney with 14 points, made two free throws with 45 seconds to play. His final two points of the night proved to be the difference.
“I practice those (free throws) at the YMCA with my father,” Ransom said. “It was just like at the Y, but with a little more pressure.”
“It feels amazing to beat them twice,” Ransom added. “We knew they were going to come with it. It’s friend versus friend; we are all cool. We know it’s going to be a tough game.”
The victory assured the Spartans (10-10, 8-8 in CCC play) a trip to the CCC Tournament. Platt, also 10-10 and 8-8 in the CCC, will take a four-game losing skid into the CCC Tournament. Both are also guaranteed bids to the CIAC state tournament.
“I said the last game we played was the best I’d ever been involved in,” said Maloney head coach Howie Hewitt, who has been on the Maloney sideline as its varsity basketball coach for 33 years. “This one was close. I know there have been some great ones, but you couldn’t leave this one. As soon as you felt comfortable, the other team would come back
“It was nice to see the kids compete – both teams. Big plays, sometimes the balls goes in, other times it just rolls around.”
After missing a 1-and-1 free throw with 16 seconds to play, Vincent Martinez all but sealed Maloney’s win by tipping a pass that resulted in a scramble for the ball with Acosta, who stepped out of bounds with 2.2 second to play.
Under heavy pressure from Platt’s swarming defense, Maloney’s Elliot Good inbounded the ball to Martinez, who took the pass from Good at midcourt and drove for the game’s final points.
With the Panthers keying on Martinez, the Spartans relied on a balanced attack. Martinez, Maloney’s leading scorer, finished with 11 points, well below his season average of 17.5 points a game.
Rashawn Wilson had 12 points, seven in the third quarter that saw the Spartans rally from a 39-31 halftime deficit. Elliot Good had 10 points for Maloney, which also got nine from big man Anthony Forbes.
Platt was led by Tre Carter’s 21 points. Brian Acosta had 15, while Roemello Leary added 14.
“We just can’t close out games. We just can’t seem to do that. It’s frustrating,” said Platt head coach Shawon Moncrief. “We just have to close out better. I don’t know if it’s a case of us just needing to work harder or what.
“We always think we can put away teams, but Maloney never got discouraged. We didn’t do a good job of closing. They won and we just move on.”
Up until Maloney’s fourth-quarter run, the Panthers led throughout the third quarter and early in the fourth. The last Platt lead was 56-54 with 5:37 to play.
Maloney tied the game 56-56 on a Garrison Kunst basket with 3:48 to play. The Spartans then took the lead for good 57-56 on a Jeremiah Williams’ free throw at the 1:54 mark. A Good basket extended Maloney’s lead to 59-56 with 1:48 to play.
Leary corralled a Carter miss and converted the offensive rebound into a bucket to cut Maloney’s lead to one with 1:34 to play.
Ransom’s driving layup put Maloney up 61-58, but Acosta hit a 3-pointer to tie the game 61-61 with 53 seconds remaining.
Platt had its chances late, but couldn’t convert. After taking a 55-45 lead, the Panthers missed six of their final eight shots.
Carter missed a potential go-ahead 3 with 31 seconds left. Carter cooled off late after making four 3-pointers in the first three quarters and scoring nine straight points in the third quarter when the Panthers opened up 52-45 lead.
Carter didn’t score in the fourth quarter.
“We knew (the Platt press) was coming, but we know how to balance out the scoring,” Ransom said. “We like to think we are smart enough to know when to run and not run.
“It’s Platt-Maloney, so we all know each other and know what the other guy is going to do. Our coach emphasized man-to-man defense (late). We had to get out to their shooters.”
Maloney scored the first nine points of the third quarter and took their first lead of the game since 7-4. Martinez’s nice cross-over drive to the basket and finish gave the Spartans a 40-39 advantage with 5:40 to play in the third.
The Panthers took a 39-31 lead into halftime after opening up a 10-point edge early in the quarter.
But Maloney was able to come back by breaking the Platt press and coveting easy layups. Martinez didn’t score until six minutes remained in the second quarter, but his jumper sparked the Spartans on a 11-6 run that saw Maloney get within 32-31 with two minutes to play in the half.
After getting through Platt’s initial pressure, Martinez, Devine Ransom and Rashawn Wilson all finished fastbreak layups. Anthony Forbes then made one free throw after being fouled on the backend of a Maloney fastbreak to cut Platt’s lead to a point.
Ransom scored eight points in the second quarter, while Forbes’ big body produced more than a few offensive rebounds and six points in the first quarter.
Platt’s Acosta scored 12 points in the first half to share high honors with Carter. Acosta netted seven points in the second quarter.
The Panthers led 21-16 after the first quarter. Leary had five of the Panthers’ first seven points, hitting a 3-pointer and jumper. Carter added six, including a runner at the first-half buzzer.