NEW BRITAIN - Innovation boys basketball senior forward CJ Allen was just selected to the CRAL all-conference team on Friday morning, and on Friday night, he reminded everyone why he was considered one of the best in the league.
Looking to send the Ravens to Tuesday’s conference final, Allen corralled a program-record 27 rebounds, suffocating MLC’s offense and eliminating any second chances in an easy 66-30 win for Innovation in the CRAL Tournament semifinals.
Allen finished with eight points, but his record-breaking performance on the glass was more than enough to make his presence known in the blowout win.
“He didn’t have his best night offensively,” head coach Matt Lance said. “But defensively, he played his behind off for us.”
Allen’s defense and dominant presence beneath the rim helped the Ravens shut down the Dragons for the third time this year, and put the team in position to defend its conference tournament title on Tuesday night against Achievement First, which will be at Innovation at 5:30 p.m. The Ravens have won the league’s last two tournament titles.
“Defensively, to hold them to single digits every quarter was great,” Lance said. “I was happy with our defensive execution. We just worked a lot harder in the second half and really started pushing the ball.”
It was also a career night for junior Gabe Matias, another entry on the all-conference team. Matias led all scorers with 24 points, which was also a career-high. Michael Blackman added a dozen, while LJ Hazelwood chipped in 11 in an all-around dominant effort.
INNOVATION 66, MLC 30
At Innovation, CRAL Tournament semifinals
MLC 6 8 7 9 - 30
Innovation 14 12 19 19 - 66
MLC: Jaden Walker 5-4-15, Nah’zai Watkins 2-0-6, Hughdante Morant 2-0-4, Zamar Gibson 1-0-3, Anthony Leaman 1-0-2. Totals: 11-4-30.
Innovation: Quron Martin 1-0-2, LJ Hazelwood 5-0-11, Marvin Owusu 2-0-4, Michael Blackman 3-3-12, Gabe Matias 9-2-24, Timothy Fraylon 0-2-2, CJ Allen 4-0-8, Dashawn Hill 1-0-3. Totals: 25-7-66.
Records: Innovation 18-3, MLC 10-11.