NEW BRITAIN - The last time the Innovation boys basketball team met MLC, it won by nearly 30 points.
It turned out to be a little closer Friday night.
A 14-2 run in the third quarter gave the Ravens the boost they needed, as they soared past the Dragons 60-50.
Innovation’s Carlos Gonzalez scored nine out of the 14 points in the run, including two 3s, while Linwood Hazelwood scored four points.
“Today’s game was definitely a fight,” Gonzalez said. “Throughout the second quarter we brought the intensity and we were able to pull off the win.”
Gonzalez led Innovation with a game-high of 21 points on the evening, while teammates Lenny Okonya and Hazelwood contributed a combined total of 21.
Although the Ravens were able to keep a consistent lead toward the end of the game, the Dragons made them work for it.
“I thought in the second half [our players] came out much stronger,” Innovation head coach Matthew Lance said. “They did the fundamental things like boxing out, they made those hustle plays and I thought that was all the difference. That’s how we were able to take the lead.”
Halfway through the fourth quarter, MLC went on a 5-2 run to get within 18 points (54-39) and then had another 11-2 run to pull within six.
But then, the Dragons fell into foul trouble during the final minute of the game, sending Innovation’s Ramiesh Bogle, Gonzalez and Lenny Okonya to the line. The Ravens capitalized with four points to help close the game out.
MLC was able to get an early 4-0 run in the beginning of the first quarter, but not before Innovation would respond with an 11-0 run by Okonya and Malcom Lewis.
But the Ravens quickly found themselves tied with MLC midway through the second quarter, setting the tone for what was going to be a closer contest than Innovation expected for the rest of the night.
“I think as a team we came in today taking it lightly,” Gonzalez said. “That will never happen, ever again. It shouldn’t happen again.”
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” Hazelwood added onto Gonzalez’s comment. “We have to come out ready to beat anybody.”
Malachy Campbell led MLC with 15 points with Jaden Walker adding 10.
After both teams traded 3s towards the end of the second quarter, Gonzalez hit a 3 and Okonya made a slam dunk, giving the Ravens a 3-point lead (24-21) going into the break.
It only set up for what was an even better second half.
“In the first half we just weren’t responding,” Lance said. “It wasn’t about X’s and O’s, it wasn’t about running our zone offense. It was about things like rebounding, diving on the floor for loose balls. I told them, I thought MLC for every single opportunity it had was for that type of play we could have made, they were making it.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org