MIDDLETOWN >> If ever a team needed a win, it was Middletown High’s boys basketball team. After opening the season 0-3, and going into last night’s game at 1-4, a win was imperative. The Blue Dragons needed a win and got one in dramatic fashion.
Middletown defeated Maloney in a Central Connecticut Conference South thriller, 55-52, at the Prof Gallitto gym. The key sequence came in the last 15 seconds of the game.
MHS gave away most of a seven-point lead it had with two and half minutes left. It led just 53-52 with 15 seconds remaining, in large part due to missing five consecutive free throws. Worse, Maloney had the ball.
But Brandon Simmons (25 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks) swatted away a layup, triggering a fast break. Quincy Kane had a layup, but he missed, only to have 6-8 O’Brien Watson slam it home for a three-point lead with eight seconds left.
Maloney (4-2) got off a three-point shot that had no chance, and a desperation short shot was blocked by Simmons and the game ended as the ball rolled on the court.
“This was a great win for us,” said Middletown coach Dave Sytulek. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. Our main goal was to keep [Tracey] Rumley under his average; that’s why we played a diamond and one. He averages around 25 a game, and we held him to 18, which made a big difference.”
Veteran Maloney coach Howie Hewett thought that Middletown’s defense was the key.
“They threw a gimmick defense at us,” Hewett said. “Which essentially was a zone. We can’t put it in the basket and Middletown knew that. No question, however, that the big play was the block and the slam at the end of the game. We just stood there and watched it happen.”
Middletown led early, jumping out to a 10-6 led. But the Spartans then went on a 14-2 run to take a a 20-12 lead at the first turn.
One good run deserves another.
Middletown opened the second quarter with a 12-2 run and took a 24-22 lead with four minutes to go in the half. But Maloney recovered and took a 31-28 lead at the half.
After Maloney’s MIke Gulino opened the second half with two free throws to build the lead to 33-28, MHS took control with a 10-0 run and led 44-39 after three. Twice Middletown had seven-point, fourth quarter leads at 48-41 and 52-45, but that was all prologue to the dramatic finish.
“This was a breakout game for Watson,” said Sytulek. “He had a huge game and so did Brandon.”
Watson had 16 rebounds and three blocks — and two dunks off rebounds, including the one that iced the game.
Middletown was 21-for-47 from the floor, good for 45 percent. But the Dragons were dreadful from the free throw line, making just 9-of-19.
“We need to improve on that,” said Sytulek.
Middletown (2-4) is at Plainville Saturday in a makeup game at 6 p.m.