MERIDEN — Pop open an agitated can of warm soda and it provides a notion of what the Maloney defense can do to a team.
Bristol Eastern, previously unbeaten in the CCC South, was dripping with a double-digit deficit before the first quarter was half over and it proved to be rather sticky.
The swarming combination of Tracy Rumley, Daniel Staton, Mike Gulino, Jordan Martin and Jaron Cogdell gave the Lancers shock treatment from which they couldn’t recover to spur the Spartans to a 58-45 win at the Benjamin Nessing Gymnasium.
“We play hard,” Cogdell said. “Everybody hustles. Everybody runs. Everybody does what they have to do and that’s what makes us a good team.”
Four steals and a stop on the first five possessions for Maloney (5-2, 3-1 CCC South) against the beleaguered Lancer (4-4, 3-1 CCC South) dictated the flow of the entire game.
Staton made the first steal and raced to the bucket. Rumley (team-high 25 points, 4 assists) made the next and dished to Staton for a layup in transition. When the Spartans missed a shot off Rumley’s next steal, Cogdell was there for the put-back.
A picturesque pass from Jamel Hamans to Dalan Duncan cutting baseline gave Maloney a 14-0 lead and Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo called a timeout.
“You can’t simulate that in practice,” Giovinazzo said. “You have a scouting report that tells you that, that’s what you have to look for and you try to prepare for, but the shock effect was just too much at the beginning.
“We didn’t realize how intense they were going to be and how quickly they turned our turnovers into baskets. They were down the court in a heartbeat and we were one step behind every time.”
Eastern scored its first and only hoop of the first quarter with 2:30 left.
While the pressure portion of Maloney’s game was high quality, poor shooting in the half-court offense continues to concern coach Howie Hewitt.
“Ahead 14-0 in the first four minutes? The defense was really good. It was just man-to-man, nothing special, but we have to [have a lot of energy] because we have a hard time putting it in,” he said.
The Spartans, their legs still churning from their defensive effort, misfired on their first 11 three-point tries and went 1-for-14 on the night. They shot 46 percent (23-for-50) from the floor. All but three were inside the paint.
“The kids are trying so hard to do so well and, when you’re not shooting well, there’s a lot of pressure on the rest of your game,” Hewitt said. “When the shots are going in, they play a little better, but this is two or three games that we haven’t shot even remotely well, so the pressure’s on them.”
The defense made 16 steals, four by Staton, three by Cogdell and Martin, two apiece for Rumley, Duncan and Gulino.
As usual, Hewitt substituted freely to keep fresh legs on the floor. Seven different players had assists and nine had rebounds, led by Gulino and Quesan Brown with six each.
The Spartans never allowed the lead to drift below 11 points. They led 27-10 at the half and 45-24 after three quarters.
The Lancers’ strong, active senior Michael Belton led all scorers with 26 points. Darieyn Tate had nine and the rest of the team had 10. Eastern shot 33 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 18 times.
Cogdell had eight points and three blocked shots.
Maloney has now won six of its last seven meetings against Eastern.