By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When it comes to last minute shots, Bristol Eastern boys basketball standout Gabe Ungaro wants the ball in his hands.
And with precious few seconds left in a tie game against Platt on Tuesday, Dec. 18, the senior guard hit the game winning hoop.
Ungaro banked home a three-pointer with four seconds left to play as the go-ahead basket helped stave off the Panthers 37-34 in a CCC South showdown from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol.
With the victory, the Lancers moved to 2-1 on the season while Platt remained winless at 0-2.
Only one basket was scored over the final 3:14 of the contest but when it came time for a final shot, Ungaro was the one who took it.
With the game tied at 34-34, Eastern had control of the ball over the final 1:26 of the stanza and after three timeouts and a couple of broken plays, Ungaro’s made his game-winning attempt from the top of the key.
Off a screen by Kevin Love, Ungaro gathered himself and banked the three-pointer off the glass as his game winner gave Eastern a three-point cushion.
“The set-up was for Kevin to screen and Gabe to come off it, read it, and see whatever he had,” said Bristol Eastern coach Giovinazzo of the game-winning shot. “I think he could have gone back to Kevin but he decided to shoot and I’m glad he shot when he did because it gave us a chance to go to the boards too.”
“It worked out well, either one of those options was fine and Gabe read it well.”
But even during the confusion off Eastern’s last hoop, with the Panthers clearly stunned, Platt quickly called a timeout with 1.8 seconds remaining and was granted a break in the action.
Off the timeout, Platt was looking for the tie but had to inbound the ball from underneath the Eastern goal and travel the length of the court.
Kyle Pelcher (13 points) was given the task of tying the game up and he received the ball and heaved up a three-quarters court shot.
But the attempt wasn’t close and slammed off the top of the backboard as the final buzzer sounded, propelling the Lancers to the victory.
Mike Belton led all players with 15 points and two steals while Ungaro added eight points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Love was also a featured player and tacked up six points, a game-high 15 rebounds, and also dished out six assists.
Ryan Chiasson added five points and 12 rebounds as Eastern nailed 16 hoops off of 14 assists.
Juan Gonzalez and
Luke Smith played well defensively while Victor Williams put in a hoop for the Lancers.
Tracy Rumley – Platt’s talented sophomore guard – was limited to only eight points in the game with two of those coming in the first half of action.
Only Pelcher scored in double figures for the Panthers as Eastern’s steady defense limited the road team to only 35.6 percent shooting on the night (14-of-46) while being out-rebounded 39-24 by the Lancers.
“I thought between Ungaro and Juan (Gonzalez), the defense on Rumley was really, really good,” said Giovinazzo. “He’s a great player and I thought they contained him very well.”
Eastern led by nine points late in the first frame and went ahead in the game by a 13-6 push after one period.
The Lancers hit six of its 11 attempts in the first quarter but from that point on, the shots weren’t falling with any type of regularity.
Over the final 24 minutes of the contest, Eastern managed to nail only 10-of-34 attempts (29.4 percent).
Platt simply packed in a zone and Eastern’s shots simply weren’t falling.
“That particular defense they were playing was giving us some trouble, not that we weren’t getting the ball where we wanted to get it,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “We weren’t doing what we were supposed to do with it when it got there. And that’s inexperience.”
“That ball was going into the right places but some of the guys were just a little hesitant to take those shots.”
The Lancers had a 15-8 edge going midway through the second tilt off a Gonzalez offensive rebound and hoop and Eastern took a 19-13 lead into the halftime break.
As in the second frame, the Lancers hit for only six points in the third period as Belton scored all of those for Eastern.
The Panthers, hitting nearly 50 percent of its shots in the second half, cut the deficit to one (25-24) going into the final period of play.
Pelcher hit the Platt’s first eight points of the final frame and the visitors led 32-31 off his three-pointer with 4:55 to go in the game.
The Lancers caught up off a jumper from Chiasson and a free throw by Love but off one final Rumley basket, it was a 34-34 stalemate.
Off back-to-back turnovers, Eastern seized the ball with 1:26 remaining as Platt never saw the ball again.
Eventually, Eastern won the game off the Ungaro long-range bomb.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE