Pictured: Members of Maloney’s team catch Middletown’s Elijah Wilborn before he leaves the court at the conclusion of Tuesday’s game in Meriden. The Spartans beat the Blue Dragons 47-35.

By Paul Augeri

MERIDEN – Maloney and Platt have been crosstown rivals forever, but when the Spartans want a sense of how they measure up on the basketball court, they look eastward to Middletown.

“Playing Middletown is like being in a Platt-Maloney game, but I feel like it means more,” said senior guard Vincent Martinez, who is friendly with many of Middletown’s players away from the court. “Especially since we play in the same division (of the CCC).”

Advantage, Maloney, for the second time this season.

The Spartans remained undefeated after another intense, defensive tussle with the Blue Dragons, beating them 47-35 after scoring the game’s final 13 points and limiting Middletown to just two field goals’ worth of offense in the fourth quarter.

Martinez finished with a game-high 22 points and Jeremiah Williams scored 16 as the Spartans (11-0) solidified one of the eight spots available in next week’s Central Connecticut Conference championship tournament.

Even with the loss, Middletown (9-2) projects to finish among the top eight. The Dragons would need to defeat Platt (4-6) on Friday. They crushed the Panthers 83-51 on Feb. 25.

Junior center Elijah Wilborn led Middletown with 10 points.

Mekhi Toler gets Middletown moving in transition in the second half, with Maloney’s Jeremiah Williams (1) in pursuit.

“The defense, the intensity, this was a playoff basketball game,” Middletown coach Rick Privott said. “If you can’t get ready and up for this type of game, this is not for you. It’s always like this against Maloney. Every possession matters.”

Trailing 21-18 at halftime, Middletown produced its best eight minutes of the night at both ends of the floor in outscoring Maloney 13-7. The surge gave the Blue Dragons new life and a 31-28 lead entering the fourth quarter.

But the Dragons’ good work unraveled in a matter of minutes.

Martinez drilled a 3-point to open the fourth quarter, tying the game, before Wilborn scored inside to regain the lead for Middletown.

Like their first meeting in February, this game was fast and physical, with both teams pressuring each other and contesting nearly every dribble, pass and shot. There was a lot of contact that was not called, and both sides weren’t happy about it.

Middletown junior guard Chace Petgrave, who picked up his third foul in the final minute of the third quarter, re-entered the game with 6:44 remaining. After teammate Mekhi Toler was whistled for an offensive charge on consecutive possessions.

The Spartans’ Victor Martinez gets the shot off against Middletown’s Elijah Wilborn in the third quarter. Martinez scored 22 points in Maloney’s 47-35 win.

On Maloney’s ensuing possession, Petgrave was knocked to the floor from an apparent screen and voiced his displeasure at a no-call. He was whistled for successive technical fouls and ejected.

Martinez was put on the line and he made 3 of 4 free throws, giving Maloney a 34-33 lead and a whole lot of momentum.

The Blue Dragons retook the lead at 35-34 when junior Dariyon Drake converted in the low post from Matt Steuerwald’s feed, but Maloney responded with Williams’ 3-pointer from two feet behind the arc.

Middletown would not score again as Maloney’s pressure forced the Blue Dragons into mistakes and a host of misses from the perimeter. The Spartans were 5 of 7 from the free-throw line in the final 2:05 to pad their lead.

“It’s a tough one, a tough one,” said Privott. “It’s too bad it came down at the end where we lost our cool. I thought it was a well-played game. We just mentally lost ourselves at the end.”

Middletown’s struggles from the perimeter and Maloney defending the 6-foot-6 Wilborn in the post with 6-5 Garrison Kunst and help handcuffed the offense.

“You don’t want to force it, and Maloney did a good job of sending two and three people at him,” Privott said. “And we didn’t make the shots.”

According to CIAC rules, Petgrave will not be eligible to play against Platt because of his ejection.

Mekhi Toler 4 0-0 8, Marshall Butler 1 1-2 3, Dariyon Drake 1 2-3 4, Elijah Wilborn 4 2-3 10, Chace Petgrave 0 2-4 2, Matt Steuerwald 3 1-2 8, Kai Cottle 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 8-13 35.

MALONEY (11-0)
Tylee Flowers 2 1-2 5, Vincent Martinez 7 6-10 22, Jeremiah Williams 5 5-12 16, Garrison Kunst 1 2-4 4, Ethan Hicks 0 0-0 0, Cam Luce 0 0-0 0, Tijion Johnson 0 0-0 0, Javonny DeLeon 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 14-28 47.

Score By Quarters
Mi 6 12 13 4—35
Ma 6 15 7 19—47

3-Pointers: Mi—Steuerwald 1; Ma—Martinez 2, Williams 1.

In other games Tuesday:

Xavier 57, Hand 51

XAVIER (10-2)
Justin Menard 5 2-2 15; John Carrozzella 1 0-1 2; Parker Hunter 5 0 1-3 11; Sathvik Vakati 2 1-4 6; Anthony Parker 1 2-2 5; Nick Beaulieu 3 2-2 8; Aidan Driscoll 1 0-0 2; Mark Schoonmaker  3 0-0 6; Malcolm Wilson-Toliver 1 0-1 2. Totals: 22 8-15 57.

HAND (7-5)
Nick D’Onofrio 5 3-3 17; Ryan Collins 0 1-2 1; Scott Tesatori 1 0-0 2; Chris Porte 1 0-0 2; Dan Hilmer 2 0-0 6; Michael Travisano 2 0-0 4; Tyler Favre 1 1-2 5; Hudson Geremia 3 1-2 9; Kyle Hoffman 1 0-0 3. Totals: 16 6-9 51.

Score By Quarters
X 13 11 14 19–57
H 7 11 12 21–51

3-Pointers: X–Menard 3, Vakati 1, Parker 1; H–D’Onofrio 4, Geremia 2, Hilmer 2, Favre 1, Hoffman 1.
Of note: The Falcons are champions of the SCC East Division at 9-0 and will be the No. 2 seed in the SCC tournament quarterfinals Saturday, hosting No. 7 Hamden at 3 p.m.


Middletown 65, Maloney 30

Haley Lespier 3-0-7; Gracey Massicotte 7-0-15; Abby Lespier 2-0-4;Nadia Berrios-Lugo  2-0-4. Totals: 14-0-30.

Azra Cecunjanim 2-0-4; Jada Bryant 4-2-10; Tyah Pettaway 5-1-12; Kya Mayo 5-1-13; Jahne Carrenard 1-0-2; Shadae Bushay 8-0-16; Shalyn Smith 4-0-8. Totals: 29-4-65.

Score By Quarters
Ma 8 9 8 5–30
Mi 16 20 16 13–65

3-Pointers: Ma–Lespier 1, Massicotte 1; Mi–Mayo 2, Pettaway 1.

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