SOUTHINGTON - The Southington boys basketball team went into the second half of its game against Hall on Monday night down by six points. Then something just clicked as the third quarter began.
Southington stymied Hall on defense and was able to convert those stops into points on the other end.
The Blue Knights used that huge third quarter, in which they outscored the Warriors 16-3, to take control of the game, and pulled out the win 51-41.
In total, Southington outscored Hall 32 to 16 over the final two quarters in an extremely impressive defensive showing.
“Our defensive effort was phenomenal,” Southington head coach John Cessario said. “I thought we did a really good job of defending the perimeter and limiting the touches for their big guy and that defensive effort led to some breakouts on offense which really helped us in the second half.
Jeremey Mercier was a huge reason the score was as close as six at the half as he put up 13 of the Blue Knights’ 19 first-half points. In the second half it was a complete team effort on both the offensive and defensive ends that allowed Southington to pull away.
“In the first half I just knew that the other guys were struggling offensively so I decided to be aggressive and make things happen,” said Mercier who ended the game with 15 points and played solid defense all game. “In the second half, though, everything started clicking.”
Mercier’s 15 points were a game-high but he had help from Brendan Taylor who finished the game with 14 points including two makes from downtown.
The Blue Knights came out of the half and immediately went on a 16-2 run keyed by a couple of Taylor threes and two Mike DeFeo layups to take a 30-25 lead. During that stretch the Blue Knights were able to hold Hall scoreless for the first five minutes plus of the third quarter. That run lasted almost the entirety of the third quarter but the Warriors got a free throw from Maxwell Boyd to make the score 35-28 heading into the fourth.
While Southington dominated the second half, the first half was a different story. Cessario was worried that the team might have a bit of an after effect from the loss against Windsor last week and he thought it did, at least in the first half.
“I was very nervous coming in that we weren’t going to respond after that Windsor game,” Cessario said. “And in the first half we really didn’t. In the second half though, things started to come together and we played a good half.”
Hall jumped out to a 17-8 lead in the first quarter keyed by Megel Hudson who hit three three-pointers in the period. But Southington was able to close out the quarter scoring five straight points. Mercier had three of those five points, all from the free-throw line.
The Blue Knights were having trouble finishing inside in the beginning over the first two quarters and that was mostly due to Daniel Brocke’s presence in the paint. Brocke was able to block several shots in the early going, but picked up two fouls, both on the offensive end of the floor, that forced him to the bench.
Even with Brocke on the bench though, Hall was able to extend the lead to as big as 10 in the second quarter. Southington was able to cut the lead to six at halftime but it had chances to get it even closer. Mercier and Colin Burdette missed on the front ends of one-and-ones so the score stood at 25-19 at the half.
In the end Southington was able to prevail and pick up its second win of the season against a team that had only lost once before Monday.
“We have played a really difficult schedule so far,” Cessario said. “And Hall is not cupcake so to pick up a win like that against a team that good is really great and I give those kids a lot of credit for the way they played.
“It’s a big win,” Mercier said. “Hopefully this is the kind of win that can get us going and can get us on a little bit of a run now.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at (860) 801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org