BOYS BASKETBALL: Spartans are the only game in town, and they make it count

BOYS BASKETBALL: Spartans are the only game in town, and they make it count

MERIDEN — This season is a sprint. And the Maloney boys basketball team has sprinted out to a 3-0 start.

The Spartans beat Newington 53-38 on Friday night in a Central Connecticut Conference Region D matchup. Maloney turned a sloppy, albeit competitive, game into a rout by outscoring its visitors 19-8 in the third quarter.

Maloney led 40-24 after three quarters and by as much as 25 in the fourth.

Newington (2-2) didn’t do itself any favors with 21 turnovers. Still, the Spartans’ lead never felt safe after Newington rallied from down 17 in the second half to beat Platt on Monday, 67-59.

“They looked good on film, and that’s a good team over there,” Maloney head coach Dave Parness said. “They just didn’t hit shots, partly to the way we played defense. 

“But we have to find a way to (play better) in the first half. It’s similar to last year. We’ll give you a couple of good quarters, but a couple where we are flat.”

“We are finding ways to win games, for what that is,” added Parness. “We pulled away at the end, but we need to find a way to pull away earlier.  We have build on this and fix some things.”

Maloney forced its share of Newington miscues, but several of the visitor’s mistakes were self-inflicted.

Vincent Martinez led Maloney with 19 points, scoring eight straight to give the Spartans a 53-26 lead with 4:12 left in the game. Martinez hit his only 3-pointer of the game during that run of points and his two driving layup followed.

“I felt like we needed to come out with more energy in the second half,” Martinez said. “I feel good about this team. As long as we play together and play good defense, we should be good.”

Martinez scored nine points in just four minutes of action in the fourth quarter. After Martinez’s baskets, Parness emptied his bench with a 25-point lead.

Fellow senior starters Jeremiah Williams had 12 points for the Spartans, while Garrison Kuntz added nine – seven in the first half.

Maloney is certainly making the most of an abbreviated season. A late start due to COVID means the CIAC has cut the regular season to just 12 regional conference games. There will be no true postseason, rather a “postseason experience.”

Maloney led 21-16 at halftime before Newington’s miscues led to the Spartans opening up a double-digit lead to start the second half.

Williams started a 5-0 run with a basket and three more Newington turnovers allowed Maloney to take a 26-16 lead on an Ethan Hicks basket 2:28 into the third quarter.

The lead grew to 31-20 on a driving and-one by Martinez with 3:21 left in the quarter. Ja’Vony De’Leon’s offensive rebound and putback gave the Spartans their largest lead of the quarter at 33-20. DeLeon finished with five points.

Another basket by Martinez to start the fourth quarter put Maloney up 42-24 and the Spartans took their first 20-point lead on another bucket by Hicks.

Earlier, Maloney took its first lead of the game with 1:49 to play in the first quarter on Martinez’s first of two back-to-back steals and layups. The steals were part of an eight-turnover first quarter by Newington, which turned the ball over on five straight possessions to end the period.

The visitors’ sloppiness continued to start the second quarter. Newington’s ninth of 12 first-half turnovers led to a Kunst basket and an 11-5 Maloney lead. The lead grew to 14-7 on a 3-pointer by Kunst.

After the first 16 minutes, Newington had twice as many turnovers (12) as field goals (6).

Newington did get within 14-11 on baskets by Sean Hurley and Josiah Ross, and a fast-break layup by Gavin Gray, who led Newington with eight points. But that would be the closest Newington got the rest of the way.

Hicks (5 points) would quickly convert an and-one inside to put the Spartans up 17-11.

Maloney’s Tylee Flowers then turned a steal into a basket and Tijion Johnson’s field goal inside gave the Spartans a 21-14 advantage with just under a minute to play in the first half.

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