MERIDEN — The first one came seven minutes into the game.
The next two sent a sold-out Platt gymnasium into a frenzy and signaled the start of the host Panthers’ 89-74 victory over their Silver City rivals.
Platt, led by Anthony Nimani’s career-high 44 points, separated itself from Maloney with a 34-point second quarter that saw Nimani score 20 points.
And while Platt’s three first-half dunks brought the loudest cheers, Nimani’s incredible second quarter proved too much for Maloney to overcome in a CCC South matchup on the West Side Friday night.
Nimani’s back-to-back dunks to start the second quarter were a prelude of things to come as the Panthers improved to 9-2.
Makhai Anderson, who had Platt’s first dunk and three more in the second half, added 26 points. The 1-2 Platt punch combined for 79 percent of the Panthers’ offense.
“I thought I had roughly 30,” said Nimani, who had 31 at halftime. “But 44? Oh, man, wow! I was not expecting that.
“Obviously, in the first half, I felt like it was automatic,” the senior guard added.
At one point in the second quarter, Nimani scored nine straight points to put the Panthers up 42-25.
Platt led 53-35 at halftime.
Nimani’s second-quarter dunks came off Maloney turnovers as the Spartans turned the ball over nine times in the frame against the Platt trap. Maloney finished the game with 19 turnovers.
“We knew we couldn’t run with them” Maloney head coach Dave Parness said. “We knew that pace favored them. We can’t play that way for 32 minutes. We just don’t have enough guys to do it.
“I thought we played a great second half, but you just can’t put yourself in a hole like that,” added Parness. “We knew that pace wouldn’t work. Our guys understand, we have to run offense. We have to play basketball. It can’t be a track meet.”
Anderson was on the Platt bench for much of the second quarter. The 6-foot-5 junior picked up three first-half fouls and had just eight points heading into the break.
But Anderson quickly made up for his absence in the third quarter, scoring eight points to keep the Panthers up by double figures.
“I had to play smart (in the second half),” Anderson said.
As for his second-half dunks?
“They get us going a lot; the team is hyped, the crowd is hyped,” Anderson said. “Then we lock up on defense and go back down and score again.”
Maloney (5-6) got within 64-51 with 1:15 left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by junior Allen Lee. Lee then hit a 3 at the buzzer to get the scrappy Spartans within 68-55 heading into the fourth.
Lee finished with 17 points. Maloney was led by Donte Kelly’s 18 points, while Marquis Ward added 14.
“The defense was good in the second quarter, but I’m not happy with our defense in the third quarter,” Platt head coach Shawon Moncrief said. “But we’ll build on this (win).
“We knew eventually we’d wear them down,” Moncrief added. “We have the luxury of 8 or 9 guys. We are deeper (than Maloney). I’m confident in our bench.”
Maloney kept the game close early with its long-range shooting. The Spartans made two early 3’s and trailed 19-16 after a quarter.
Maloney finished with 10 3-pointers. It made four from behind the arc in a third quarter that saw the Spartans outscore Platt 20-15.
But the second quarter proved too much for Maloney to overcome.
“Once that happened, you could see their faces and body language (get down),” Nimani said about Platt’s 34-19 second quarter. “We noticed they were getting tired (in the second quarter).”
“Unfortunately, they had one of those quarters,” Parness said. “We knew we had to come out of halftime and battle.
“Three out of the four (quarters) we played even or won,” Parness added. “But against a team like that, you have to play four good quarters.”
As Moncrief mentioned, Platt’s depth played a part in the second-quarter explosion of points. The Panthers go nine deep, while Maloney countered with just six players.
Though, after their strong third quarter, the Spartans wouldn’t go away. Maloney cut Platt’s lead to 72-60 with 6:25 to play on a Kelly 3-pointer. Maloney was then within 72-61 with 5:28 to play.
But Anderson scored another eight points in the fourth quarter, including his fourth dunk of the game to re-establish Platt’s advantage at 78-61 with 3:30 to play.
Nimani then scored six of the Panthers’ final 11 points to seal the win. He had 19 field goals for the game, including two 3-pointers.
In the early going, a steal and two fast-break hoops by Jason Delevante (8 points) put Platt up 29-18.
Maloney led twice in the first quarter. Kelly’s driving layup gave Maloney an 8-7 led and his basket with 3:29 left in the opening quarter put the Spartans up 12-9.