MERIDEN — Friday night marks the first Platt-Maloney rivalry meeting in boys basketball and features two Silver City squads that have trended in opposite directions in the last few weeks.
Maloney, 4-5 heading into Thursday’s game at Berlin, had dropped five straight games prior to a 46-21 win over Rocky Hill at home on Tuesday.
The team is still struggling to fill the role of junior point guard Justice Hanna, who suffered a torn ACL in the second game of the season.
On the other side of town, Platt is a legit Division III state title threat. At 8-2, the Panthers head into Friday’s 6:45 p.m. home date with Maloney as the No. 5 team in the CIAC Division III playoff rankings.
Platt’s two losses came against Bloomfield and Middletown in back-to-back games.
The Panthers responded to those defeats with four straight one-sided victories over Cheshire, South Windsor, Bristol Eastern and Hartford Public.
“We’ve been taking it one game at a time and this team is ready,” Platt coach Shawon Moncrief said. “They have a big-picture goal of making a run in the playoffs. We are going to treat [Friday] as another step towards our goal and I think we are playing at a very high level. We are enjoying playing together and enjoying working hard. We are excited to see how it goes.”
Platt senior guard Anthony Nimani and junior forward Makhai Anderson have been one of — if not the — top duos in the state.
Nimani averages 24 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals per game. Anderson averages a double-double with 23 points and 11 boards.
Despite these two stars and an emerging supporting cast, Moncrief expects to face a strong Maloney team on Friday.
“We know they are going to play hard,” the Platt coach said. “I’m sure they have done their homework on us. We score a lot of points and that’s no secret to anyone, and they are going to try to stop that.”
For the Panthers, the goal is making runs in the CCC conference and CIAC state tournaments and prove they are among the state’s elite.
“We strive for perfection,” Moncrief said. “We want to clean up our mistakes. Our team has matured to the point where even after a win they bring up points of emphasis we could have done better on in certain things.
“It’s special to have that type of mindset and I think it shows on the court because they play for each other and are playing together and it feels good.”
The Spartans head into Friday night having played just 24 hours before in Berlin.
“The kids are up for it,” Maloney coach Dave Parness said. “We are still figuring things out after the injury to Justice. We’re hoping to play well against Berlin heading into Friday. If we don’t come out to play [against Platt] and if we are worried about the stuff off the court, we will get run out of the gym.”
Parness added that he wished his team was playing better heading into the rivalry tilt.
“There’s been a lack of consistency,” Parness said. “We go through spurts where we are really, really good. But there are other times where we don’t hit shots we should hit.
“After losing Justice, we are putting younger guys in and a lot of the time we are falling behind and are trying to claw back into the game in the second half,” Parness continued.
“Then we run out of fuel and run out of time. We aren’t good enough to let other teams get ahead. We have to come out ready to play.”
Junior guard Marquis Ward is Maloney’s top scorer wtih 16 points per game. Senior forward Tadrique Jones nets 11 points per contest. Both are also averaging 8 rebounds.
“Platt has multiple guys who can put up 20-25 points and we don’t want to get into the situation where they are getting into transition,” Parness noted. “When they are running they are as good as anyone around.”