By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Central girls basketball team had a little trouble trying to contain a slick little guard from Conard on Friday, Dec. 28.
Each and every time the Rams made a run in the game, Elle Fontanazza seemingly hit big shot after big shot to keep the Chieftains on top.
And her shooting made the ultimate difference in the final outcome.
Fontanazza blasted Central for 28 points – hitting five three-pointers in the process – as the Rams dropped a hard fought 43-32 decision in a CCC Interdivisional war from Bristol.
With the win, Conard won for the second time this season while Central fell to 4-2 in the losing effort.
Central, coming into the contest winning four or its first five games, certainly had chances to beat the Chieftains but things went wrong – on multiple fronts – as Central couldn’t execute its game plan and absorbed a tough loss.
Just a look at Central’s foul shooting on the night – the team missed 10 of its 12 attempts – and the proof was in the pudding.
“We had a terrible practice yesterday,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet. “So we played liked we practiced yesterday. There was little to no effort in practice yesterday. There was a little more effort tonight but just not a sense of urgency.”
“We didn’t do the little things that we should have done at practice yesterday…it was just disappointing.”
Conard went to the long ball early and often in the game and when Fontanazza and Shelly Rodgers (six points) were missing three-pointers, the visiting squad collected multiple offensive rebounds and went in for additional points and scoring opportunities.
In all, the Chieftains collected 21 offensive boards and that didn’t help matters out for Central at all.
“We got killed on the offensive boards,” said Gaudet. “Yesterday at practice and before the game, all we talked about was controlling the boards. Granted Chandler (Walker) was out (of the game) but still, we have to rebound as a team. Five girls have to crash on defense and get after (rebounds).”
“We didn’t do a good job at that at all tonight.”
What also didn’t help matters was an injured Walker and her presence on the floor was sorely missed for large chunks of the game.
Walker collected six points, nine rebounds, and two blocked shots but she exited the game after the first period and didn’t play again until the 4:26 mark of the third frame.
But credit belonged to reserve Christina Bouvier as she filled in well for the injured Walker.
In a critical 11:26 minute stint, Bouvier collected four rebounds, played outstanding defense, and with her time in the contest, the Rams got back into the game.
When Bouvier entered the game, Central was trailing by seven (17-10) and by the time Walker returned, the Rams were in front by one at 25-24.
“We have confidence in a lot of kids and Christina Bouvier is one of them,” said Gaudet. “She’s done it all year. Almost every single game, Chandler gets in four trouble so Christina has come off the bench to give us serious minutes.”
“She’s done an outstanding job…I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
Lauren Bossi collected six points, seven rebounds, and made two steals while Gretchen Edelman added three points and two rebounds.
In the backcourt, Ashley Elder netted a team high 12 points to go along with eight rebounds while Erika Monsalve posted four points and four rebounds.
Central went ahead in the contest 6-4 off an offensive rebound put back by Walker with 4:49 left in the first quarter.
But off a 13-4 spurt to end the quarter – including a half-court, buzzer beating three-point bomb by Fontanazza – the visitors went in front 17-10.
Central’s defense held Conard to only five points in the second stanza as the Chieftains were held scoreless over the first 5:36 of the period.
Off a 9-2 push, Elder hit a jumper to knot things up at 19-19 with 1:11 left before the half.
But a conventional three-point play by Conard’s Nicole Kradas gave the Chieftains a 22-19 push at intermission.
However, the Rams came back to take the lead in the third quarter of play.
Central battled back and took the edge off a Walker free throw that made it 26-24 with 3:41 left in the third frame.
But the Rams didn’t score again in the stanza as Conard went on a blazing 10-0 run, needing just three shots to tally the go-ahead points in the game.
Fontanazza hit two consecutive three-pointers and Rodgers drilled a three-pointer – getting fouled in the process – as she hit the charity shot as her four-point play propelled Conard to a 34-26 push going into the final quarter of play.
“It’s forced us to go to man-to-man” defense said Gaudet off the Conard three-point shooting barrage. “And then (Fontanazza), she has 20- points tonight. She hurt us off the dribble there. We didn’t do a good job of help defense there and we when went to man (defense).”
“Give them credit…they hit some big shots (and) we didn’t hit the big shots, or get the big rebound or two or three or four.”
The Rams made a run at it and cut the deficit to four off a hoop by Monsalve with 5:47 left in the game.
Down 36-32, Central didn’t score again as Conard hit two late hoops and canned three of four free throws, propelling the Chieftains to a big 43-32 win in Bristol.
“We fought back to take the lead,” said Gaudet. “And then we did some things and we just couldn’t get over the hump. We made some bad mistakes, shots didn’t fall, and some things just didn’t go our way.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE