Donte Pope Scores 31, MHS Defeats Bridgeport Central

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Pictured: Donte Pope puts up a shot over Bridgeport Central’s Jeremiah Devalt in the first half. Pope had 24 of his 31 points in the half

MIDDLETOWN – It was Middletown’s boys basketball home opener Friday, and coach Rick Privott knew his team’s offense would be there when needed.

Privott was preoccupied with the Blue Dragons’ effort on the defensive end, and when it clicked in the third quarter against Bridgeport Central, the day turned out fine for Middletown.

The Dragons, ahead by just six at halftime, held the Hilltoppers to seven points in the quarter and ended up coasting to a 77-61 victory.

Senior forward Donte Pope scored a game-high 31 points for Middletown and Mekhi Toler had 21 to send Middletown into an 11-day break between games with a 3-1 record.

Jaden Palmer led Bridgeport Central, playing for the first time this season, with 22 points.

The Blue Dragons opened the game with a 19-6 run, which was a credit not just to their explosive fast-breaking offense but also to their pressure defense. And yet they lost that aggressiveness in the final 1:42 of the quarter, with the Hilltoppers slashing their deficit to just 25-21.

Middletown pretty much maintained its lead in the second quarter and led 40-34 at the break.

“We’re trying to put more of a focus on the defensive end, which obviously could use some more work,” Privott said. “Overall I thought in the second half, the man to man was good, it took some pressure off. The scoring usually takes care of itself.”

Pope, who scored 24 points in the first half, scored on two drives, both from beautiful feeds by Kenny Fountains, and Toler hit a free in the opening minutes of the third quarter to give Middletown a nine-point lead.

Toler followed with three consecutive buckets, all off the fast break, to push the lead to 16. After Central scored one of its three goals of the quarter, Pope scored underneath, was fouled and finished the three-point play. He scored again with an assist from Jonathan Nkonoki to blow the game open at 57-38.

Sophomore center Elijah Wilborn had 10 rebounds for Middletown. Pope finished with 7 rebounds and Nkonoki had 6 assists.

MORE TO COME …

Box Score

BRIDGEPORT CENTRAL (61)
Tyrell Palmer 0 0 0, Jaden Vieira 4 0 8, Jaden Palmer 6 9 22, Jamir Sanders 0 0 0, Jeremiah Devalt 5 1 11, Travis Griffiths 2 0 6, Reniel Smith 2 0 4, Marco Acevedo 4 1 10, Jahmani Mattis 1 0 2. Totals: 23 11 61.

MIDDLETOWN (77)
Mekhi Toler 10 1 21, Kenny Fountain 0 1 1, Jonathan Nkonoki 3 1 7, Donte Pope 13 5 31, Elijah Wilborn 2 1 5, Matt Steurewald 2 0 6, Erin Strong 1 0 2, Anthony Belmonte 0 0 0, Richard Rivers 1 0 2, Dariyon Drake 1 0 2, Nahtayvion Durazzo 0 0 0. Totals: 33 9 77.

3-Pointers: BC—Griffiths 2, Palmer 1, Figeria 1. M—Steurewald 2.
Records: Middletown 3-1, Bridgeport Central 0-1.

Next Game

  • Middletown home vs. Maloney, Jan. 7, 6:45pm