MIDDLETOWN — Thursday was a night for Middletown’s girls basketball team to recognize and appreciate its seniors and look forward to what its underclassmen will provide in the coming seasons.
Sophomore guard Kya Mayo scored in double figures for the sixth straight game and senior forward Mackenzie Dunn had 11 points in Middletown’s 52-40 CCC South-Colonial girls basketball win over Platt at LaBella-Sullivan Gymnasium.
The victory was the Blue Dragons’ third straight and it gave them a chance to be among the 16 qualifiers in the coming CCC tournament, but they have to win at Berlin on Monday and get some help to get in.
Senior forward Dominique Highsmith added seven points for Middletown and freshman guard Tyah Pettaway made consecutive 3-pointers late in the first quarter to help the Blue Dragons extend a lead they would not relinquish.
“Overall, it was a good night for us,” Middletown coach Rob Smernoff said. “We did a good job early on. Some coaches on Senior Night worry about their team focusing on basketball, but we focused from the opening tip.
“Dominique and Mackenzie, offensively it wasn’t a top performance for either of them, but as they have done all season, they helped their teammates out. This program would not have had success without them. Three CCC division titles in four years with those two — that’s a heck of a legacy to leave.”
The Blue Dragons (11-8 overall, 8-7 CCC) were given space to shoot from the perimeter and got hot early against the Panthers (4-14, 2-13). Five different Dragons provided offense, mostly from outside, with the second of Pettaway’s long-distance shots giving her team a 12-5 lead.
“Not a lot of freshmen can come into a game and do that,” Smernoff said. “She has the potential to be one of the better guards this school has seen.”
Highsmith scored off a layup from a Dunn dish to push the lead to nine, and Dunn knocked down a 3-pointer as Middletown took a 17-9 lead after one quarter.
“We did a good job of sharing the ball tonight,” Smernoff said. “Sometimes what’s happened this year is we’ve faced tough team after tough team and you try to play hero ball. But when we share the ball, we are a tough team to play.”
And Smernoff was right again when he said the lead would have been larger if several in-and-out field-goal attempts went in.
When Middletown went cold in the second quarter, the Blue Dragons tried to penetrate Platt’s 2-3 zone and got to the free-throw line.
The Panthers cut their deficit to 19-15 on two free throws by Martha Chatman with 3:07 to go in the first half, but Mayo made four consecutive free throws, swished a 3-pointer on Middletown’s next trip down the floor, and then made a jumper with 1:38 left to put the Blue Dragons ahead 28-15.
Mayo scored 12 of her team-high 15 points in the first half and Middletown led 30-17 at the break.
“By far the most improved player as the season has progressed has been Kya Mayo,” Smernoff said. “Her output the last six games or so, she’s really turned it on. We’re going to need her one day, and in the (CIAC Class L) tournament, and she gives us great promise for the future.”
Platt derailed any chance of a rally because of a slew of unforced errors.
“We have a short bench, literally and figuratively, and that hurts us,” Platt coach Tina Gonyea said. “We have to take care of the ball and do the little things well. When we got within reach, we went to the other extreme. When we’re good, we’re good. When we’re off, we’re really off.”
Middletown put the game out of reach at the midway point of the third quarter. Dunn hit two 3-point shots, Mayo hit another, and a jumper from Highsmith increased its lead to 18 points, 41-23.
A good look at the future came on Middletown’s next possession. With freshman guard Shadae Bushay leading the fast break, Mayo found her in stride for a layup.
Chatman hit a jump shot on Platt’s ensuing trip down the floor, but junior guard DeZiar Rose-Daniels nailed a 3-pointer 30 seconds later to give Middletown its biggest lead of the night, 46-27 with 1:13 left in the third.
Bushay, who has been battling a foot injury, started and contributed at both ends of the floor. She finished with seven points.
“She was (favoring) her foot the last few games, but tonight she was totally under control,” Smernoff said.
Chatman led Platt with 16 points and Jalexia West added 11.
Middletown has won three straight at the right time after starting the season winning seven of its first 10 and has already qualified for the Class L tournament. The Blue Dragons will have to be at their best against Berlin — the Redcoats (14-4 entering Thursday’s game against Maloney) have the CCC’s second-best record and beat Middletown by eight in January.
MIDDLETOWN 52, PLATT 40
Jayleena Gordils 1 2 5; Martha Chatman 6 4 16; Julia Misner 2 4 8; Jalexia West 3 5 11; Aaliyah Burnley 0 0 0. Totals: 12 15 40.
Dominique Highsmith 2 3 7; Kya Mayo 4 5 15; Mackenzie Dunn 4 0 11; Ayanna McCalla 0 0 0; Shadae Bushay 3 0 6; India Weston 1 0 2; Tyah Pettaway 3 0 6; Deiar Rose-Daniels 2 0 5. Totals: 18 8 52.
PLATT 8 9 11 12 — 40
MIDDLETOWN 17 13 16 6 — 52
3-pointers: P—Gordils; M-Dunn 3, Pettaway 2, Mayo 2, Rose-Daniels.