MERIDEN — The Platt boys basketball team came out ice-cold in the first quarter, but the Panthers were in complete control for the next three quarters as they overwhelmed host Maloney 80-56 at the Benjamin P. Nessing Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
Platt trailed by as many as 17 in the first quarter and then a switch went off and the Panthers, led by Anthony Nimani’s 25 points, were unstoppable.
Makhai Anderson (19 points) was also a force in the post for the Panthers and the visitors got big shots from Justin Black (11 points) and Juan Dancy (11 points) in a game that was full of emotion with a big crowd.
The physical contest also featured five technical fouls.
The win was the fourth straight for the Panthers and it improved their record to 6-3 overall and 3-0 in the CCC South. The victory also ended a six-game losing streak to Maloney (2-5, 1-2 CCC South).
The rivals were tied 37-37 at the half. The first quarter was all Spartans and the second quarter was dominated by Platt.
Maloney started the game on a 16-0 run over the first 4:33. Tijion Johnson set the tone with a 3-ball on the initial possession. Donte Kelly (16 points) had a driving layup and a floating teardrop in the lane as the Spartans hit their first three shots and were off to the races.
Kelly later had an old-fashioned 3-point play and Stone De’Leon hit back-to-back buckets as the lead expanded to 16-0.
Anderson broke the ice for Platt with a bucket at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter. Justice Hanna countered with a 3-ball for Maloney to give the Spartans their biggest lead of the first half, 19-2.
The Panthers used a 9-1 spurt to get closer. A Dancy trey with 50 seconds left got the Panthers within 19-9. Maloney led 22-11 after the first quarter with a banker from De’Leon (12 points).
Platt’s pressure defense finally started taking a toll in the second quarter, forcing nine Maloney turnovers after the Spartans had turned it over only twice in the first quarter.
Maloney was also hurt by foul trouble. Johnson picked up two first-quarter fouls and eventually fouled out in the fourth.
Nimani ignited the crowdin the second quarter with a one-handed slam.
“Maloney was scoring a lot of points early on and, at the time, Anthony had not scored," Platt coach Shawon Moncrief noted. “I called a timeout and I challenged them. I told Anthony he’s the best player in the city and he needs to show it right now and he stepped up big.”
The junior guard had 12 points in the second quarter after being held scoreless in the opening frame.
“I needed that," Nimani said of the dunk. “I needed to get myself back on track and do my part to help the team.
“This was a huge win for us,” Nimani added. “We’ve been losing to them all the years that I've been here.”
Nimani’s slam started an 18-6 run for Platt to end the half. Nimani also had a pull-up jumper and an old-fashioned 3-point play during the run that evened the score at 37-all by the break.
Anderson added 11 first-half points for Platt. Kelly and De’Leon each had 10 apiece at the break for Maloney.
In the second half, the Panthers put on a clinic on both ends of the floor, outscoring Maloney 43-18.
Platt started the second half on a 8-0 run and took its first lead of the game with a trey by Nimani. A layup by Dancy, a trey by Black and the Panthers were suddenly up 45-37.
Later in the quarter, Platt had another 8-0 spurt to go up 56-40. Anderson capped it with a put-back.
The Panthers led 60-44 after three quarters. There was some jawing on both sides after the quarter and technical fouls were called.
Platt started the fourth quarter 13-1 run as the led ballooned to 73-45. Deante Torres had two buckets in that run and Black added his third trey of the game.
Ty Flowers had all nine of his points in the fourth quarter and was one of Maloney’s bright spots down the stretch.
“The guys showed a lot of heart tonight; they fought," Moncrief said. “If they were younger, they may have folded after start, but they fought together. Rivalry games are always tough. Maloney came out and gave us their best shot and we came back,”
Maloney coach Dave Parness said the plan wasn’t to go up and down the floor with Platt, but his team started out so hot in transition, at that time dominating the Panthers.
“It’s tough to keep that pace," Parness said. “We had a couple of guys in foul trouble. We didn't have the guys to go up and down with them. But the guys came out with good energy and I let them go. But once they took the lead, we couldn’t find a way to stop them. They were deeper than us.”
The rivals will meet again on Feb. 22 at Platt.
“We have to keep it going," Moncrief said. “Our biggest goal isn't to win the city rivalry. It’s to make a lot of noise in the postseason.”