BRISTOL>> The Bristol Central boys basketball team has a pair of 6-foot-4 forwards. They made their presence known Tuesday night.
Seniors Jamill Tolliver and Landin Rutledge controlled the boards on both ends as the Rams (8-3) defeated Maloney, 65-52 at Bristol Central.
Tolliver led the way with 21 points, including four emphatic dunks to keep the crowd alive. L.J. Johnson added 12 points and Rutledge had eight.
Jamel Hamans led Maloney (7-3) with 15 points while Ethan Hexhaj scored 13 and Tracy Rumley 12.
“We knew we were definitely bigger coming in and they obviously had the speed and quickness to give us fits,” Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette said. “Early on we didn’t handle pressure the way we needed to, but second half we did a great job getting the ball to the middle and they would either get it to the baseline for a three-pointer or for dunks from Jamill Tolliver.”
The third quarter is when the Rams took control.
Coming out of the break with a 28-26 lead, Tolliver scored on a second-chance basket right under the rim. He did the same a minute later and then Jason Severino (five points) hit a 3 from the corner to give Bristol Central a 35-29 lead.
“When they got ahead of us they started really feeling good,” Maloney coach Howie Hewitt said. “Made a couple of threes, we missed a couple of foul shots and it just got away from us a little bit.”
“That kid Tolliver for them had a great game,” Hewitt added. “I think he made 10 one-footers, which is a tribute to him understanding his strength.”
The Spartans hung around until the last 2:44 of the third quarter when the Rams went on a 9-0 run to take a 50-37 lead to the home stretch.
“To turn it from a one or two possession game into a three possession game is huge,” Barrette said. “Tonight we were starting to push away and then we made some big 3s right at the end of the third quarter and we were able to hold onto the lead in the fourth.”
A 3 to start the fourth quarter from Jamil Hornesby gave Bristol Central its largest lead of the game, 16 points.
As the Rams attempted to pass the ball around and run out the clock in the fourth, Maloney got a few turnovers that led to an 8-0 run and a seven-point game with 2:43 left. But Central went to the line three times in the last minute and a half, made four of six free throws and closed out the game.
“We blew a game vs. Middletown that we shouldn’t have at their place and tonight you saw some maturity,” Barrette said. “We took a bad 3-pointer with two minutes to go and then at the end of the game we pulled the ball out, moved the ball nicely, got to the free-throw line and made free throws to finish the game.”
Hewitt said after the game that Bristol Central was just tougher than his team was tonight.
“I thought some of our guys played tough,” he said. “Rumley, Jamel Hamans. Our big kid wasn’t bad at all, Ethan Hexhaj, but we needed it from everybody.”
Bristol Central has quietly put together a very strong season with this win being maybe its best yet.
“The CCC South this year is very good top to bottom,” Barrette said. “Any time you can beat a good Maloney team that’s coached by Howie with those athletes, we count that as a great win.”
The Rams will look to keep their strong season going on Friday at city rival Bristol Eastern. Maloney will see its rival as well, Platt on Friday.