By Ron Buck
Special to the Record-Journal
MERIDEN — Middletown may have come into Thursday night’s CCC South-Colonial Division matchup at Platt with just three wins. But the way the Blue Dragons ran the Panthers ragged, one would never know they had lost seven straight games.
Middletown took its first lead by scoring the final two baskets of the first quarter and never relinquished its advantage in racing to a 79-48 boys basketball victory over the Panthers.
Platt got within three points by halftime, but trailed by 15 entering a fourth quarter that saw Middletown just pull away.
The loss dropped Platt to 10-7 on the season and to 4-3 in the CCC South-Colonial. Platt is now 8-5 in CCC games.
“They definitely didn’t look like a team that had lost seven straight games and we didn’t look like a 10-win team,” Platt head coach Shawon Moncrief said. “They definitely came out more hungry than we were and I think we didn’t keep our composure in a lot of situations.
“It’s a tough one to go out like that at home, but hopefully it’s a learning lesson for the guys going forward.”
Yes, Senior Night at Platt turned into a game to forget, not only for the five seniors who started, but for a Panthers team headed to the postseason. Platt finishes its CCC regular season with games at Berlin, Avon and rival Maloney.
Middletown, meanwhile, is a CCC team that certainly looked playoff worthy, yet still needs to win out to assure itself of a postseason bid.
“We had some tough opponents, including Platt,” Middletown head coach Rick Privott said. “But we are a different team now. I had to sit Donte Pope for half the season and we had some other issues.
“We have to play fast; they play fast. We both have great athletes,” Privott added. “We were prepared; we knew what they could do. They’ve done a terrific job, but we know what we can do, and we just have to worry about what we do.”
What Middletown did was speed up the game to level Platt couldn’t match. The Blue Dragons pressed the Panthers at every opportunity, converting Platt miscues into easy baskets.
The closest Platt got after halftime was 10 points, as the Blue Dragons scored the first seven points of the third quarter. Leading 48-33 heading into the fourth quarter, Middletown went on a 13-7 run to extend the lead to 21 with 4:50 to play.
The lead grew to 64-43 as Tre Carter’s 3-pointer was matched by Middletown leading scorer Tejan Lanser, who had 29 points and hit seven 3’s in the game.
Pope, who finished with 21 points and scored 10 in the fourth quarter, then converted a traditional 3-point play to extend Middletown’s lead to 67-43 with four minutes to play.
Another Carter basket was again countered by a Lanser trey and 3-point play by Pope, as the Middletown lead grew to 70-45 with 3:40 remaining.
The Blue Dragons would finish the fourth quarter making 10 of 11 shots, while Platt missed seven of its 11 final shots.
“We played too fast for our own good,” Moncrief said. “We played erratic and not fast-paced. We wanted to play fast, but we need to play fast and smart at the same time.”
Roemello Leary led the Panthers with 14 points. Fellow senior Malcolm Andrews added 13.
“Man, we got lost on defense and just couldn’t make any shots,” Leary said. “Our defense was slow and things weren’t just working out at all.”
Middletown, which lost by one point to Berlin and in double overtime to Simsbury to start its losing skid, is now 4-13 overall and 2-4 in the South-Colonial division.
The Dragons pressure defense started to get to the Panthers in the second quarter, as they forced three straight turnovers and converted each into easy scoring opportunities.
Middletown opened up a 26-15 lead by scoring the first seven points of the second quarter. After missing his first three shots of the quarter, Tre Carter’s driving layup stopped the Dragons’ run.
With Middletown missing its next four shots and turning the ball over on a fifth possession, Leary and Carter then converted driving layups to get Platt within 26-21. Andrews then made three straight shots to close out the half and get the Panthers within 30-27.
The first quarter saw the game tied at 6-6, 11-11, 13-13 and 15-15. The Panthers led most of the opening quarter until the Dragons scored the final four points on baskets by Ken Fountain and Jon Nkonoki.