MERIDEN — Needing a spark, veteran Maloney basketball coach Howie Hewitt dusted off an old defensive staple, the 2-2-1 trap. The switched proved to be the difference for the Spartans in a successful home opener Thursday night.
Maloney allowed only 15 points in the second half and turned in a 49-35 victory over CCC South interdivisional rival Bristol Central on the Fahey/Hewitt Court.
Maloney sophomore Vincent Martinez headed the Spartans’ attack with 15 points. Senior forward Anthony Forbes had yet another big double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds, while senior guard Divine Ransom added 11 points.
Donovan Clingan, Central’s 6-foot-8 freshman, led his team with 18 points, 20 rebounds and 6 blocked shots.
“It was a great win and we worked together as a team,” Ransom said. “We played great defense; we focused on our defense. We know we are a smaller team and we have to play with defensive intensity.”
Although, Maloney’s offense was balanced and effective, it was the defense that made the Spartans go. Maloney (2-2) held a slim 25-20 lead at the half and a 32-28 edge after a low-scoring third quarter, and despite shooting 2-for-14 in the frame.
Sergio Muniz accounted for the Spartans’ two third-quarter field goals.
Maloney defenders, however, would hold Central (0-3) to one field goal over an 8-minute span from late in the third quarter to late in the fourth.
“We played the trap at the end of the first half, but we extended it a little more in the second half,” Hewitt said. “The big kid was so good for him and that made them come up a little further.”
In all, it was a 15-2 run in which Ransom and Martinez provided much of the offense, with Martinez setting up a trey for Ransom to get things going. Martinez ended the Maloney string with a finger-roll drive through the lane.
“We shot 2-for-27 on 3-pointers tonight,” Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette said. “We shot from outside too much instead of going inside and using our strength. They instituted that trap and that slowed us down after we came out strong. But he made the change and we really struggled in the last three quarters to score.”
While the guards took center stage in the second half, the opening half was about the big men as Forbes and Clingan were trading shots in the paint.
The Spartans came out ice cold to start the game. They were in a 12-6 hole, but responded with a 8-0 run that spilled into the second quarter. Forbes went to work late in the first quarter with six points in the final 1:09. Forbes had seven boards by halftime.
Clingan was trouble for the Spartans in the post throughout. He ended the first half with 11 points, 6 rebounds and all 6 of his blocks.
Martinez scored a pair of buckets in transition to end the first half to send the Spartans into the locker room with some momentum.
“Divine played well and Vincent was great all game,” Hewitt said. “He played the whole game. He rebounds, he handles it, scores it, passes it. He played very well.”
The win was Maloney’s second straight after opening the season with two losses. The Spartans won 59-58 in overtime on Monday in Plainville.
“I’m happy to watch the kids play like that,” Hewitt said. “These kids are really putting everything into it and good things happen when you do.”
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