MERIDEN — The Platt basketball team cracked one of the state’s top-10 rankings this week. Turns out that was the worst thing that could have happened to the Panthers.
Playing nothing like a top-10 team, Malcolm Andrews’ running jumper with 4 seconds to play allowed Platt to escape Friday night with a 48-46 CCC crossover win over E.O. Smith.
The victory improved Platt to 7-2 on the season and kept the Panthers unbeaten in CCC play at 5-0.
E.O. Smith fell to 1-6 overall and is winless in CCC action.
“It wasn’t the best of games, but at the end of the day I’ll take the ‘W’,” said Andrews, who led Platt with 14 points. “We just have to work hard in practice and work harder in games.”
Platt entered the game ranked No. 8 in Division IV playoff points and No. 6 among CCC teams. So a 2-point win over a team it should have dominated was nothing to celebrate Friday night.
“Nothing to do with anyone we play, we just didn’t come out with any intensity at all,” Moncrief said. “We played at a level that was unacceptable for how we’ve played so far and how we think we should look out there.
“My message was, ‘If our goal is to play in March, we have to come out and play with a certain type of energy every time. If not, we are going to get nipped before reaching that goal.’ ”
With the final seconds winding down, Andrews took a pass from Tre Carter on the left wing just behind the 3-point arc. He drove around his defender to the baseline and lofted the game-winner from 10 feet out.
E.O. Smith called timeout with just over 2 seconds to play, but Mekhi Hayden’s desperation heave from just inside halfcourt hit nothing but backboard.
“I think (the rankings coming out) kind of hurt us,” Moncrief said. “We just didn’t put the effort into today’s game that got us that ranking. So I think we played slow and a step behind. We can’t do that. Against anyone.”
Prior to his heroics, Andrews was part of a cheering section of starters on the Platt bench for the majority of the first half. Uninspired and not playing up to Moncrief’s expectations, Platt’s starters were pulled with the game tied 9-9 and 2:49 left in the first quarter.
Four of the five didn’t return to action until the third quarter.
Only Elijah Wright played in the second quarter as four of Platt’s five starters remained on the bench throughout the frame. In their place were backups Jher’Quez Slater, Enrique Quintana, Nashalique Gooding and Brian Acosta.
Platt and E.O. Smith were tied 11-11 after one quarter and Platt trailed 20-19 at halftime.
“I feel like our coach did what he had to do to get our starting five’s minds right,” Andrews said. “We really needed that. We turned it up in the second half.”
Moncrief kept leading scorers Andrews, Carter and Roemello Leary on the bench as the second half started and didn’t put them back in until E.O. Smith opened up a 27-21 lead with 6:09 to play in the third quarter.
Once reinserted into the game, the Platt starters went on an 11-0 run to take a 32-27 lead with 1:14 to play in the third. Carter (8 points) struggled to find his rhythm all night, but started the run with a jumper.
Leary added a basket during the run, while his free throw gave the Panthers a 28-27 lead they nursed until the end of the game. Leary finished with 9 points.
Andrews’ second driving layup gave Platt its largest lead to that point at 32-27. E.O. Smith, however, cut Platt’s lead to 34-30 after three quarters.
With Platt struggling to find any offensive rhythm and unable to break away from Smith, the game was tied 42-42 with 2:31 to play. The Panthers, however, turned up their defensive pressure and Leary’s steal and fast-break layup gave Platt a 46-42 lead with 1:32 to play.
Smelling an upset, E.O. Smith wouldn’t go away and Will Evans’ inside basket got Smith within 46-44 with just over a minute to play. Smith then tied the game with 30 seconds to play when Hayden stole the ball from Carter at midcourt and converted the swipe into a fastbreak layup.
Hayden was fouled by Elijah Wright on the basket, but missed the foul shot to set up Andrews’ winner.
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