MIDDLETOWN — Too bad there weren’t many fans to see it. Both sides would have been silent in the first half and then lost their voices in the second.
Jeremiah Williams scored 17 points and Vincent Martinez added 13 points as Maloney prevailed over host Middletown 50-45 on Monday night in an early season battle of basketball unbeatens that started slow and finished with a bang.
Garrison Kunst had 11 points for the Spartans (5-0), who showed little fatigue during what was their third game in the past 72 hours.
After a sluggish start, the second half featured acrobatic layups and big 3-pointers, which gave the CCC Region D game a state tournament-type feel. Marshall Butler had 14 points for Middletown (3-1), which matched Maloney bucket-for-bucket in a wildly entertaining third quarter.
“That was a fun game,” Maloney coach Dave Parness said. “The crowd would have been pretty awesome in that game.”
A big crowd wouldn’t have had much to cheer about early, however.
The teams combined for 15 points in the first quarter, a period which featured more turnovers (12) than field goals (5).
Things quickly picked up, however, as the Spartans and Blue Dragons combined for 31 points in a back-and-forth third quarter that saw Maloney take a 37-36 lead into the fourth.
The Spartans opened the fourth quarter on a 7-2 run, which was capped by Martinez’s 3-pointer from the left corner with just over five minutes to play. The big shot gave Maloney its biggest lead of the game at 44-38.
It was a lead the Spartans wouldn’t relinquish, mostly because Martinez wouldn’t let them. He was in control at all times, directing the offense while coming up with a couple timely steals on the other end.
“Vincent is a two-time All-League player, potential 1,000-point scorer,” Parness said. “He’s got to have the ball in his hands in this kind of game.”
Middletown cut the lead to three points twice in the final minute, but it was over when Williams rebounded his own miss off a 1-and-1 with six seconds left and hit a pair of free throws.
“That was one of the most mentally tough games we’ve played,” said Parness, citing foul trouble and general rustiness of the new COVID-impacted season.
That same mentally tough label could be applied to Middletown’s effort. The Blue Dragons turned the ball over repeatedly in the first quarter and didn’t have a field goal until there were two minutes left in the period. As bad as Middletown played, the Blue Dragons only trailed by one after the first quarter and led 22-20 at the half.
“That first quarter was disastrous,” Middletown coach Ricky Privott said. “We had more turnovers than shots, but we hung in there and had a shot. It was an entertaining game.”