BOYS BASKETBALL: Big fourth quarter carries Newington past Platt

BOYS BASKETBALL: Big fourth quarter carries Newington past Platt

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MERIDEN — Newington ripped off a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to erase a huge second-half deficit and defeat Platt 67-59 in a CCC Region D boys basketball contest at Henry Zaleski Gymnasium on Monday afternoon.

The Indians seemingly could not miss in the fourth quarter. Alexander Cucuta drilled three 3-pointers from the corner to spark the comeback.

Platt’s biggest lead was 49-32 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.

Newington did score the last five points of the quarter to make it 49-37 heading into the fourth, but Platt’s Matthew Smokes drilled a trey to put the hosts up 52-37 in the opening minute.

That’s when Newington cranked up the full-court pressure and finished the game on a 30-7 run. The visitors tied the game with a Gavin Gray jumper with 3:12 to go that came in the midst of a 13-0 run. 

Josiah Ross later gave Newington its first lead since the first half.

“Platt is talented and (Anthony Nimani) was destroying us,” Newington coach Ed Quick said. “We talked about playing through and I have to credit our guys in the fourth quarter. We weren’t playing on our heels.”

Cucuta finished with a team-high 11 points and Nick Gagliardi added 10 for Newington (2-1).

The first half of the Presidents’ Day matinee was the Anthony Nimani Show. The 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard was doing it all for Panthers. He scored 22 of his game-high 29 points in the opening half as Platt (1-2) took a 31-28 advantage into the break after Newington used a balanced attack to build a 19-11 lead after one quarter and pushed it to 21-11 to start the second. 

Platt turned up the pressure in the second quarter and finished the frame on a 9-0 run. Henry Smith had a steal and two free throws prior to a 3-pointer that tied the game. Nimani capped the quarter with a trey.

“The first half we were beating them and then we fell apart,” said Nimani, who had 12 rebounds and five assists to go with his 29 points. “I feel we need to play the same the whole game. You can’t go out like that.

“We are going to watch the game again and see what we can do to get better.”

The Panthers started the second half on a 18-4 run as Smith (12 points) and Juan Dancy (7 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals) had multiple buckets.

That’s when Newington went on its run.

“We trapped them and we sped them up,” Quick said. “I ran the risk because in the first half they were speeding us up. The last six or seven minutes we did everything we had to do.”

Platt coach Shawon Moncrief held a practice shortly after the game. He called the play in the fourth quarter “unacceptable” and said his team got too comfortable with the lead.

“We need to be a lot smarter, we need to make better decisions and hit the glass. We gave up too much in the fourth quarter,” Moncrief said. “We went away from what got us the lead in the first place.”

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