Islanders start strong, hold off Panthers late
The Middletown Islanders started the contest with a 16-0 run and never looked back as they beat the Johnston Panthers, 61-50, in Division II boys’ basketball action at Johnston High School on Tuesday night.
“We dug a big hole,” Panthers’ head coach Dan Mazzulla said. “They’ve got a good team. They’re well disciplined. They play as a unit. We’re young. Our immaturity shows up often. Our decision-making and we’ve got to rely on our 3-point shot. We have a hard time getting to the basket and we don’t rebound the ball very well. I don’t think we had a handful of offensive rebounds.”
Rasheed Lozada led Middletown with 21 points, and his teammates Tyrese O’Loughlin had 15 and David Robinson scored 10.
Dylan Durante was the leading scorer for the Panthers with 22 points.
“Dylan shoots the ball well,” Mazzulla said. “He’s our scorer, so he’s frustrated because he’s always going to be double-teamed. They’re going to work on him hard, so he tried to rush a few shots tonight, but at the end of the day, he’s our shooter, he’s got the green light, he can shoot the ball when it needs to be shot.”
Johnston captain Andrew Zalisk chipped in 10 points.
“Andrew works very hard,” Mazzulla said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s always working hard, always hustling.”
After falling behind 16-0, Johnston put together a 5-0 run when Zalisk dished inside to Anthony Angelone for a short-range jumper. The next trip down, Anthony Tavares found Cameron Iasimone for a 3-pointer and got Johnston within 16-5.
Johnston inched even closer after Zalisk buried a jumper and Durante hit a pair of 3-pointers and got the Panthers within 18-13.
Middletown’s Aidan Murphy made a jumper following that, and then Johnston’s Tavares sank a 3 and pulled the Panthers within 20-16 with just over six minutes to play in the first half.
Then, the Panthers tied the game at 22 on back-to-back 3-pointers from Durante and Zalisk.
However, Middletown would create some padding after that when Lozada put back his own miss and Robinson sank a jumper. Then, Murphy hit a 3 and Devin Russ went coast-to-coast for a layup just before the buzzer and gave Middletown a 31-26 lead heading into halftime.
Johnston got 3-pointers from Iasimone and Durante and a layup from Jason Canton early in the second half and pulled within three.
Middletown’s O’Loughlin would make a pair of free throws next and then Canton made a layup while he was fouled and added the free throw to get the Panthers within 39-37 with 11:26 left to play.
However, that’s as close as Johnston would get. A 3 from Russ and a layup from Bruno Silva extended the Middletown lead to seven, and it cruised the rest of the way.
“We played good,” Mazzulla said. “We were down 16-0 and we came back. We’re working, we played hard. That’s all we can ask from them is to play hard on a consistent basis and hopefully we’ll make better decisions as we mature a little bit more.”