MIDDLETOWN >> Next month’s CIAC Class M state tournament will feature a number of teams that can run and score points in bunches. Top-ranked Sacred Heart-Waterbury, Bloomfield, Northwest Catholic and Notre Dame-Fairfield are some that fit that description.
But there may not be a team in the state that gets up and down the floor faster than Hartford’s Prince Tech.
Sophomore guard Delshawn Jackson, Jr. poured in 22 of his game-high 35 points in the third quarter as the Falcons ran past the Hawks, 86-73, in a Constitution State Conference battle Thursday night at Middletown.
“That’s a really athletic, fast team and Jackson can shoot it,” Vinal Tech coach Gary Marineau said. “They play hard and they double-team you on defense. Sometimes it looks like they have seven guys out there.”
Patrick Thompson tallied 14 points and center Tyree Mitchell chipped in 11 points for Prince Tech (13-4), which also defeated the Hawks, 100-60, on Jan. 26.
“We had some internal strife before the game started and changed the starting line-up around,” Prince Tech coach Kendall May said. “We sent some guys home. It’s all about discipline.”
Senior forward Juwan Bennett, the leading scorer in the state, paced the Hawks with 28 points, while Denzel Woolard and Elias Rhett each had 15 points.
Bennett, however, fouled out with six minutes and 22 seconds still left in the fourth quarter. By then, Prince Tech had raced out to a 70-56 advantage.
The fast-paced contest featured 13 lead changes in the first half with the surprising Hawks taking a 34-33 halftime lead on a rainbow buzzer-beating trey from Shabbir Ahmed.
“We’re playing well,” Marineau said. “We’ve got one more and we’re hoping to get to 10-10 and we’ll keep working from there. A game like this is going to get us ready to play someone in the (Class L) tournament.”
Jackson, whose father DelShawn averaged 32 points and led Prince Tech to the Class M finals in 1998 (an 85-66 loss against Northwest Catholic), was unstoppable in the third quarter, scoring on both long-range shots and numerous drives through the Hawks defense.
“We’re happy with Delshawn,” May said. “He’s only a sophomore and he’s already nearing 1000 points. He’s an athletic freak.”
Bennett matched Jackson basket-for-basket in a terrific third quarter duel. Bennett’s pull-up jumper and two free throws gave Vinal a 48-41 lead with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
But Jackson tied it with seven straight points and the Falcons went into another gear from there. A 19-1 run at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter lifted Prince Tech to a 69-54 lead.
“We played all kinds of defenses tonight,” Marineau said. “But Jackson finds a way. He gets free and he can make shots.”
May, who is in his 19th season as Prince Tech’s head coach, celebrated his 300th career win earlier this season.
“When you play hard, good things happen,” May said. “I’m very much looking forward to the state tournament. Class M is going to be a tough class. It’s top heavy with Sacred Heart and Northwest Catholic. So we’re looking at our seeding now and we’ll see how it falls.”