In a battle of crosstown rivals, visiting Mepham stood firm to hold off a furious Calhoun comeback to secure a three-point victory in a game that came down to the final moments.
Trailing by 12 entering the fourth quarter, Calhoun took advantage of a series of Mepham turnovers and missed free throws to make it a one-possession game with under a minute remaining. A subsequent three-point shot by Calhoun’s Patrick Sanchez off an out-of-bounds pass was off the mark, and a final Calhoun possession was stymied by a strategically timed foul by Mepham that helped run out the clock and give them the 69-66 victory.
It was a display of consistency for Mepham in the first three quarters, committing just five turnovers while outscoring Calhoun by at least three points in each frame. But the fourth quarter was a different story, with seven turnovers.
“We were pretty balanced offensively,” Mepham head coach Pat Fallon said. “In the final quarter, we needed everyone to slow down. They were getting sped up and were doing things they hadn’t done in the first three quarters.”
That balanced scoring included 18 points for Mekhi Beckett, 17 for Greg Paul, and 15 for Rich Vaquero.
For Calhoun, Finley Sheridan led all scorers with 23 points. Chris Stokel added 22, and Malek Graham chipped in 12.
Despite the late surge, Calhoun head coach Jay Kreutzberger said it was a slow start that ultimately doomed the Colts. “In the first quarter and a half, we didn’t keep them off the boards and get to those loose balls,” he said. “That’s something we’ve got to work on.”
Both teams now stand at 4-3 in Conference A1, good for a third place tie. Both entered Saturday on a high note: Mepham had won five of its last six, and Calhoun was on a two-game winning streak.
Though Mepham made some mistakes late, it was the three-point shot that helped Calhoun capitalize, with Jake Solomon hitting two long balls off the bench, and Graham adding another to help trim the deficit.
Rob Caminiti and Jack Fontanetta each added six points apiece for Mepham, and Chris Smith scored five.
Both teams trail Long Beach, which entered the week with a perfect 8-0 conference record. Mepham will have the opportunity to cut into that division lead when they visit Long Beach in their next game this Saturday at noon.
“We put together a very good last month,” Fallon said. “We’ve got to use that momentum to go forward and play well in second half of the league season.”
Calhoun will visit MacArthur next Saturday. With losses this season to Long Beach, Garden City and now Mepham, Kreutzberger said his team now knows what’s needed to avenge those losses. “We don’t have to make wholesale changes,” the coach said. “We just have to tighten up our defense and limit second chances. If we reduce our turnovers, we can win any of those rematches against those three teams.”
The playoffs may be on the line the next time Mepham and Calhoun meet, on Feb. 10, at Mepham – the final game of the regular season for both teams.