MERIDEN — The Maloney boys basketball team’s matchup with South Windsor ended the same way it started, with the Spartans turning the ball over numerous times leading to a 74-63 loss on Friday night at home.
Despite leading 58-49 with 5:49 to play, the Spartans (5-6) struggled against the Bobcats’ 1-2-2 press down the stretch, leading to a 24-5 closing run by South Windsor (1-8) as it picked up its first win of the season.
“They turned us over with a 2-1-2 zone,” Maloney head coach Howard Hewitt said. “The turnovers at the end (of the game) look worse, but we turned the ball over against their 2-1-2 zone (too much).”
Maloney fell behind early 8-0, as they turned it over five times and took just two shots in the game’s first 4½ minutes.
“We came out awful,” Hewitt said. “We turned the ball over then. We didn’t even shoot the ball. I think we shot the ball once in the first four minutes. That being the case, it’s hard to win when you don’t shoot.”
The Spartans would correct things in the turnover department as they cut the Bobcat lead to one by halftime behind strong performances from sophomore guard Vincent Martinez and senior guard Divine Ransom.
However, the Spartans ball security issues reared their ugly head in the fourth quarter as multiple 10-second violations and a few errant passes against the South Windsor press turned the 9-point advantage into an 8-point deficit in just three minutes.
South Windsor got big games from junior forward Justice Ellison (35 points) and senior guard Zach Donahue (24 points).
Ellison was a menace on the fast break and at the line, where he shot 14-for-18 to help clinch the win for the Bobcats.
But it was Donahue, who hit six 3-pointers, that was the key, according to Hewitt.
“He is going to UConn to play baseball,” Hewitt said. “In our scouting report I said, ‘This guy is playing baseball at UConn, so he’s got to be a great competitor.’ He showed it tonight. That was the difference in the game.”
Donahue drilled his sixth three to tie the game at 60 with just over three minutes left. The Bobcats would not trail the rest of the game as Maloney struggled to generate offense down the stretch.
“We have some inexperienced players that aren’t used to playing in that environment with a little pressure,” Hewitt said. “They’ll get it. (South Windsor) played well, they shot well.”
Maloney was led once again by Martinez, who hit six 3-pointers of his own and finished with a team-high 33 points.
“Without Vincent [Martinez] we’d be scoreless,” Hewitt said. “Every night he plays both ends. He rebounds; he does everything.”
The Spartans will look to rebound next time out as they will travel to Storrs to take on E.O. Smith on Tuesday.
As for now, Hewitt says his team has a lot to work on, but they can’t dwell on tonight’s loss.
“We don’t have a lot to talk about,” Hewitt said. “We played pretty tough.”
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