By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
As good as the Madison Blue Streaks played in the first half on Friday night, building a 17-point halftime lead over Lakeside, that’s about as bad as Madison coach Pat Moran felt his team played in the second half.
Luckily, for the Blue Streaks, that first-half performance was enough to allow them to hang on against the Dragons, earning a Premier Athletic conference win, 62-60.
“We just told our kids it’s two halves,” Moran said. “I thought we came out and played our best half of basketball in the first half. We were getting out and running, we were getting defensive stops. The second half was the opposite.
“They didn’t go away and that’s a testament to Coach (Mark) Taylor and his staff.”
Up 17, Moran saw his team start the half with three turnovers and Lakeside capitalized with a 7-0 run before a Brett Monty layup stopped the bleeding with 5:47 remaining in the third to put the Madison lead at 42-30.
Madison maintained the double-digit lead throughout the remainder of the period, entering the fourth up, 49-39.
Again, the Dragons (5-12, 3-8) came roaring back. Emonte Parks (18 points) buried two triples to start the period then Nick Meola (6 points) hit a free throw to cut the deficit to 49-46.
Monty (17 points) came to the rescue for the Blue Streaks (11-8, 7-5) for the second-straight period, hitting a wide open 3 to get the lead to a slightly more comfortable 52-46.
“The guys showed a lot of heart,” first-year Lakeside coach Mark Taylor said. “We haven’t played a game since Jan. 28. We’ve had a lot of cancellations. We were either going to be rested or rusty. We came out sort of lethargic, sluggish.
“The guys showed a ton of heart and resilience fighting back. Emonte made some big shots, he was ice cold in the first half then he got hot in the second half.”
The Dragons got the deficit back down to three at 60-57 thanks to a Tristan Bradley (13 points) trey, but Madison’s Stephon Ortiz (game-high 23 points) nailed a pair of free throws to push the lead up to five with 5.4 seconds remaining.
Parks hit a 3 at the buzzer, leaving Lakeside two points short.
Ironically, it was a play in the closing seconds of the first period by Monty that could’ve proved the difference in the game.
With Madison up 18-7, consecutive Blue Streaks’ turnovers led to four Dragon points, cutting the lead to 18-11. But, Monty came back and hit a 3 from just past half court at the buzzer.
The desperation shot proved significant in a two-point win.
“Our kids kind of understand if we’re in that situation with under 10 seconds and it’s a live ball, Monty has the ball in his hands, his objective is to score or draw the defense and make a play,” Moran said. “I’m glad his awareness allowed him to get under control and shoot that. I thought that was a nice momentum boost for us because we kind fed off that going into the second.
“If we don’t do what we did in the first half, we don’t win the game because they took it to us in the second half.”
John Dahlhausen came up big for Madison in that second period, as well.
The 6-foot-4 junior scored eight of his 13 points in the period, all eight of which came in a row to help the Blue Streaks build a 19-point lead.
“When he has his head on straight, he is a very good player,” Moran said. “I thought he started out terribly. It took a little pep talk on the bench and he really stepped it up. He gave us a nice spurt in the second quarter and we need that from him. He’s not the strongest kid in the post but he’s a good rebounder, we need him to rebound, need him to score when he gets touches down low.”
In the end, Taylor thought the extended layoff was too much for his team to overcome.
“Varsity speed is different, no matter what you do, when you’re out for three weeks it’s hard to simulate that speed in practice,” he said. “I thought the guys just couldn’t get going. I thought the one thing they (Madison) do really well is play great halfcourt team defense, I think they’re really well-coached.
“They play great team defense, we had a hard time getting good looks. We want to move the ball around and we played our style in the second half, we just came up short.”