MIDDLETOWN >> University traveled to Middletown on Tuesday sporting a somewhat deceiving won-lost record on its’ resume. The Hartford magnet school opened its season against Bloomfield in the Greater Hartford Hoop Classic at Trinity College before tussling with the likes of Simsbury, Notre Dame-Fairfield and Granby Memorial.
So the Hawks welcomed a chance to get back into league play against Vinal Tech and the Middletown Hawks nearly pulled off an upset.
Senior forward Kevin Partyka drained a 3-pointer to break a tie with just 1:10 remaining and senior guard Pierre Augustin sealed it with a steal and driving layup in the final seconds as University escaped with a 66-58 win.
“Once we figured out how to rebound the basketball and we started executing our offense, things worked out in the end,” University coach Jay Riccitelli said.
University (2-4) trailed 44-34 at halftime. But the Hawks blitzed Vinal Tech with a 12-0 spurt to start the third quarter. Partka fueled things with a baseline drive and a putback. Partyka and Melvin Floyd capped the run with consecutive 3-pointers to give University a 46-44 lead.
The game was nip and tuck the rest of way before some late heroics lifted University at the end.
Augustin led University’s balanced scoring attack with 15 points. Justin Williams and Partyka each had 13 points, Floyd finished with 11 points and senior center Mark Shapiro added 10 points, including a pair of big low post hoops down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
“Some of our guys that struggled in the first half, either rebounding the ball or defensively, came alive in the second half with their defense and then it led to our offense,” Riccitelli explained. “We started scoring. We went to a high-low set and our guys from the outside got some confidence. Partyka is a senior and it was just a matter of time before he took the game over.”
Vinal Tech (3-3), which was coming off a loss at Guilford last Thursday, showed in the first half that they’re going to be formidable again in the CSC under second-year coach Gary Marineau.
Behind the play of seniors Juwann Bennett, Shabbir Ahmed, Curtis Anderson, and Robert Parker, junior Denzell Woolard and sophomore Elias Rhett, the Hawks built a 21-12 lead after one quarter.
A pair of 3-pointers from Rhett and Bennett helped Vinal take a 44-31 lead late in the second quarter.
“University’s a good team,” Marineau said. “They’re well coached, they’re quick. But you saw with our team tonight that we can battle. We have some players that our frustrated in there right now. That third quarter run hurt but we battled back again.”
Bennett led all scorers with 20 points, Woolard added 14 points and Anderson finished with 11 points.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Marineau said. “We’ve got some great kids. It’s different than old school Vinal Tech basketball. Playing Guilford and some of the teams that we have scrimmaged gets us ready for a quality team like University. We’re going to just keep moving on and getting better.”
University 66, Vinal Tech 58
University: 12 22 16 16 — 66
Windsor: 21 23 5 9 — 58
Mark Shapiro 5 0-0 10, Justin Williams 4 4-7 13, Melvin Floyd 4 2-3 11, Kevin Partyka 5 0-1 13, Pierre Augustin 4 6-6 15, Rasaun Russell 2 0-0 4 — Total 24 12-17 66.
Vinal Tech (58)
Shabbir Amhed 3 0-0 8, Denzell Woolard 5 3-4 14, Juwan Bennett 7 5-8 20, Curtis Anderson 5 1-2 11, Elias Rhett 1 0-0 3, Robert Parker 1 0-0 2 — Total 22 9-14 58.
3-pointers: University — Partyka 3, Floyd 1, Augustin 1. Vinal Tech — Ahmed 2, Woolard 1, Bennett 1, Rhett 1.
Records: University 2-4; Vinal Tech 3-3.