NEW HAVEN >> It’s almost as if the Career boys basketball team needs to be down by double digits in a win-or-go-home situation in order to respond.
Last Thursday, the Panthers came from 12 down late in the fourth quarter to force overtime, then went three overtime periods before finally eliminating Hand in a Class L second-round game.
On Monday, Maloney had Career down double digits in the third quarter. The Panthers didn’t wait as long this time for the comeback.
A 16-1 run put the third-seeded Panthers ahead to stay. They turned up the defense and eliminated No. 6 Maloney 62-58 in the quarterfinals at the Floyd Little Athletic Center.
“Truthfully, I’m not sure. We can’t honestly keep doing this. Going forward, that might not work.” said guard Tyreek Perkins, who finished with 18 points. “It’s like we all start clicking. Eventually we will get it and need to going forward.”
Said Career coach Larry Kelley: “Somehow they look up (at the scoreboard) and say. ‘We might lose. Let’s get it going.’ They then ratchet up the defense.”
The Panthers will face Naugatuck in the semifinals Wednesday at East Haven at 7 p.m. A win would give Career its second straight appearance in the L final and fourth state finals appearance in the last five years.
Career (24-3) held just one lead (24-23) briefly in the third quarter. Maloney then built an 11-point lead twice in the third quarter, the last coming at 50-39 with under a minute left.
Then the Panthers started to make life difficult for the Spartans (20-6). Maloney committed five turnovers before it even got an official shot off in the final quarter.
Danny Ampofo finished off a three-point play to start the fourth. Then Perkins hit a three-point shot to cut the deficit to 50-48. Justin Campbell (19 points) hit three straight baskets to put the Panthers ahead to stay.
“I think we stopped passing the ball, as simple as that,” Maloney coach Howie Hewitt said. “All those easy baskets were a result of couple quick, good passes. … They made a couple of threes, made a couple of baseline drives and hit the boards harder than we did (in the fourth), but we didn’t make them work on defense as much as we did in the first three quarters of the game. … We should have won the game.”
Ampofo made a free throw to finish the run before Jordan Martin hit a 3-pointer, Maloney’s first field goal of the third quarter, to cut it back to one.
After another Ampofo free throw, Maloney ran nearly a minute off the clock before shooting again. After the missed shot, Tyrell Eaddy hit Perkins with a long outlet pass and a subsequent layup with 31 seconds left to put Career ahead 58-54.
“I’ve got four kids, (Kevin) Smith, Ampofo Eaddy and Perkins, none of them are scared to take a shot,” Kelley said. “When you have four guys like that, you’re chances are a lot better.”
Eaddy and Campbell sealed the victory with two free throws apiece.
“This is really tough because I think they are one of the better teams in the state and we absolutely played with them and played better than they did for two-thirds of the game,” Hewitt said.
Maloney, which started the game shooting 9 of 13 from the floor in the first quarter, had four players in double figures, led by Jamel Hamans with 14. Tracy Rumley, the Spartans’ leading scorer, finished with 11 points, none in the second half.
CAREER 62, MALONEY 58
(at New Haven)
Maloney 19 12 19 8 – 58
Career 17 11 14 20 – 62
Tracy Rumley 5 1-1 11, Jaron Cogdell 5 0-0 10, Jordan Martin 4 0-2 9, Aleandro Ortiz 0 0-0 0, Ethan Haxhaj 5 0-0 10, Jamel Hamans 4 6-9 14, Mekhi Warren 2 0-0 4. Totals: 25 7-12 58
Tyreek Perkins 7 1-2 18, Tyrell Eaddy 3 2-2 9, Danny Ampofo 2 4-11 8, Kevin Smith 3 0-0 6, Justin Campbell 8 3-4 19, Justin Gordneer 0 0-0 0, Will Jackson 0 2-2 2. Totals: 23 12-21 62
3-point goals: Maloney 1 (Martin 1); Career 4 (Perkins 3, Eaddy 1); Records: Maloney 20-6; Career 24-3