By Sean Lynch
WOODBURY — The Middletown bench was eerily quiet as they trailed by 13 points to Monroe-Woodbury late in the second quarter.
Senior guard Conor Coffey had already hit three 3-pointers, and senior forward Chris Lulgjuraj was 4-of-4 from the field for the Crusaders.
With 2:22 left in the second quarter, Middletown head coach Jim Kelly called a timeout and rallied his team together. Soon after, they began a full-court press, hindering the Crusaders from moving the ball as freely as they did earlier in the game.
The full-court press was successful, as Middletown went on a 17-0 run after they began pressing. They pressed all the way until the final seconds of the game, winning 60-47 in a Class AA Division I matchup.
“We were able to play our game,” said Kelly. “We were able to play a faster paced game, and put a lot more pressure on the ball throughout the second half.”
Kelly also talked about the performances of some players who didn’t start tonight. “Our bench really stepped up tonight. When they came in, it gave us an extra pep in our step and got us back on track.”
The Middies leading scorers Marquis & Keon Gill were benched in the first half for reasons detrimental to the team.
“We let our teammates down in the first half by not being out there with them,” said Keon. “When I came on the court in the second half, the team had a lot of momentum. We were still losing, so I knew we had to put even more pressure on Monroe defensively, and that’s what we did.”
Middletown (3-0) outscored Monroe-Woodbury 25-12 when the Gill’s were on the floor.
“As Keon said, we let our teammates down in the first half tonight,” said Marquis. “Early in the game, we came out sluggish, and when we came on in the third quarter, I knew we had to bring a lot of intensity on both ends of the floor.”
In only a quarter-and-a-half of playing time, Keon finished with 12 points and Marquis had 11 points.
In his first start of the season, senior forward Noriel Brown led the Middies in scoring with 13 points, including three 3-pointers.
Monroe-Woodbury (2-2) was led in scoring by Conor Coffey, who had 18 points and senior guard Nick Memoli who had 11 points.
The Middies next game is versus Kingston (5-0) next Wednesday. Kingston is led by Section 9’s top scorer Brian Moore, who’s averaging 31.7 points per game.
“Middletown versus Kingston is always a big matchup,” added Kelly. “They’ve got (Brian) Moore who’s one of the best guards in Section 9. He’s been filling it up this season for them. It’ll be great matchup for our guards and overall it should be a great game.”
Marquis has kept a close eye on the performances of Moore, and looks forward to playing against him. “I hear he’s been putting up some numbers this season. We just have to stop that with our intensity on defense and contain him from getting hot. Because when he gets hot, he doesn’t miss.”