CLINTON — One word comes to mind concerning the first five games of the Cromwell boys’ basketball season.
The Panthers (5-0), who won the CIAC Division V title last year, have beaten their five opponents by an average of 27 points. Their latest victim came Friday night when they belted Morgan 68-44 in a Shoreline Conference contest.
Still, Cromwell coach John Pinone is calling it a work in progress.
“It’s a group that hasn’t played a lot of basketball together,” Pinone said. “We had five starters (last season) who played together for years. Everything we’re doing is looking to March. It’s still only January.”
Cromwell raced out to a quick 8-0 lead in the first minute with Gabe Charleston scoring the last three in the spurt.
With Morgan missing a ton of shots from inside the paint, the Panthers were able to take advantage and using their speed advantage to extend the lead to 23-9 by the end of the first quarter.
A 3-pointer from the right corner by Garrett Johnson (18 points) was able to get Morgan within five, 23-18, with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
However, Cromwell went on another run, this time a 10-0 spurt to grab its biggest lead of the first half, 33-18 with 1:35 remaining until intermission.
“At halftime, we talked about cleaning up a lot of the mental errors we were making,” Morgan coach Frank Rossi said. “Everything we talked about to counter Cromwell’s game plan, we did a poor job of.”
Morgan was able to close things to 35-30 by scoring the first nine points of the third quarter.
“Sometimes we get too impatient in offense and gamble on defense,” Pinone said. “We think we can make plays in 10 seconds. We’re not mentally tough enough to wear teams down slowly.”
That would be the closest the Huskies would get again.
With Cromwell’s Naimir Heyliger scoring six straight points, including a pair of buckets he converted after steals, the Panthers took a 43-30 edge with two minutes to go in the third.
“We just away from everything we did to get us back to five,” Rossi said. “A lot of it was fatigue and they are the best defensive team we’re going to see.”
With Cromwell playing tough defense and Morgan turning the ball over on offense, they only allowed a three-pointer by Johnson in the final 5:28 of the third quarter to take a 49-33 lead.
With Nick Wright scoring six of his game-high 21 points, Cromwell slowly extended its lead throughout the fourth quarter, including scoring the final 11 points of the night.
Morgan, which had won four of its five games coming into the contest fell to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the Shoreline Conference.
“I’m happy where we are,” Rossi said. “That game was a good barometer of where we are. That’s the best team we’ve played all year and we can take away a lot of things where we can get better.”