They say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. For the Middletown boys’ basketball team, it was the other way around in the opening-round of the Class L tourney.
Playing in front of a packed house at MHS, the Blue Dragons scored the game’s first 18 points and outscored the visiting Maloney Spartans 25-4 in the first quarter, before coasting to a 99-62 victory.
Senior captains Tyshaun James and Ahmod Privott established their dominance early and often, leaving little doubt to who was the better team last Tuesday night.
James drained a three-pointer on the opening possession and Privott scored 14 on his game-high 30 points in the opening eight minutes of action.
The do-it-all Privott added 15 rebounds, six assists, and a pair of blocks.
The duo is leading a group that is looking to finish what they started a season ago when the team advanced all the way to the Class L championship game, but fell to East Catholic 62-51 in the title game at Mohegan Sun Arena last March.
James and Privott were starters as juniors during the 2016 tourney-run and are now two of four seniors that start this season.
CJ Sprowl (16 points) and Aveon Woods are the other two.
After the Spartans had narrowed the margin to 10 points at halftime, Woods helped put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
Middletown again started the half with a flurry, scoring the first eight points of the second half and besting Maloney 30-12 in the third.
Woods tallied all eight of his points during the quarter, including a pair of threes.
DeAaron Lawrence is the only non-senior starter and the junior guard provided the night’s most dazzling moment when he canned a running three from just inside midcourt to beat the third-quarter buzzer, sending the Blue Dragon faithful into hysterics.
The Curry-esque trey was one of four threes on the night for Lawrence, who finished with 16 points.
Leading 70-42 entering the fourth, Middletown coach Rick Privott let his bench do most of the heavy lifting for the final eight minutes.
Junior center Kalil Thomas dominated the middle, scoring all eight of his points in the final frame and fan favorite Brennen Maxfield scored six of his eight on a pair of long-range triples, helping the Blue Dragons put the finishing touches on the 37-point win.
Alejandro Ortiz led the Spartans with 19 points and Jeff Massicotte added 14 more.
The lopsided victory was Middletown’s third triumph over Maloney this season, also winning 61-50 at home on Jan 12 and 75-58 in Meriden on Feb 17.
The 99 points was also a season-high, topping their 97-point effort in a victory over Platt on Feb 1.
Middletown’s second-round tilt was rescheduled to Saturday due to last Friday’s snowstorm, but the delay didn’t hurt. Privott followed his terrific first-round performance with an 18-point, 11-rebound night as the Blue Dragons grinded out a 55-51 victory over New London, advancing the team to the quarterfinals.
Newington was also victorious in the first round of Class L, downing North Haven 55-44.
Jared Simmons scored his season-average, pumping home 22 points, and Matt McKinnon added 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The Indians were not so fortunate in the second round, losing on the road at Wilton 64-57. Simmons scored 22 more and McKinnon added a dozen points and snared 17 rebounds in defeat.
It was the final game in a Newington uniform for Simmons and McKinnon, who depart with five other seniors.
Rocky Hill won their opening-round Class M tourney game, outlasting Windham 74-67.
Alex Sikorski was his usual self, scoring 30 points and also adding a chase down block which caromed into the stands. The enormous rejection was the talk of the town all week.
Will White added 18 points in the victory.
The Terriers fell in round two, losing to Holy Cross 88-46.
The loss to Cross was the final game for Sikorski and four other seniors (Dan Tonna, JD Monaco, Peter Lucente and Rio Valentine.)
White, Ryan Robinson and Riley Donovan will lead a talent group returning to the court next winter.
Cromwell also won in the first-round of Class M, upsetting Windham Tech 71-61 on the road.
Noah Budzik and Austin Roy each tallied 15, leading a balanced scoring attack. David Dewey added 14 points and seven assists, and sophomore Nick Wright contributed 11 more points.
The Panthers fell to #2-seed Plainville 63-46 in the second-round. Reese Reyes scored 24 in defeat.
Budzik, Roy, Dewey, Wright and Reyes will all be back next season, but the loss was the final game for seniors Sean Melaven, Luke Matchett and William Moore.
Wethersfield fell to Northwest Catholic 65-48 in the first round of Class L. The Eagles will lose six seniors, but will have their top two scorers in Mike Mozzicato and James Sullivan, along with point guard Nicholas Arcata, returning next season.
Ice Hockey Roundup
The Wethersfield/Middletown/Rocky Hill/Plainville co-op team finished 17-3 in the regular season and then skated through the first two rounds of the Division III tournament.
The Eagles shutout Eastern CT 6-0 in the first round, thanks to three goals from Paul Wheatley. Tyler Piecewicz, Phillip Rudak, Ben Mroczka score the other trio of goals.
Zac Forrest dished out four assists and goalie Stephen Vaughan was clean in between the pipes, savings five shots.
Vaughan sent back 22 more shots and Wheatley added two more goals, upping his season total to 26, in a 3-1 quarterfinals victory over the Redhawks. The win advanced the Eagles to the semifinals.
Newington’s co-op team won only three regular season games, but still qualified for the tourney. The Indians lost a heartbreaker in the opening round, falling to Hall/Southington 4-3 in overtime.
Playing in his last game, senior Alex Borselle scored this twelfth goal of the season. Junior Mark Sweitzer and sophomore Matt Lavoie tallied the other two goals in the tourney loss. Lavoie finished with a team-high 16 assists this season.
Lavoie, Cade Palladino and goalie Adam Belair will head a strong unit returning to the ice next winter.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin