By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL– Since Tony Floyd took the reins of the Bristol Eastern girls basketball program in 1979, defense has been his calling card.
Fast forward to 2013 and a stern challenge by a very pesky Bristol Central squad, defense ruled again for the Lancers as Eastern defeated the Rams 44-25 in a CCC South tilt from the gymnasium at Bristol Central on Thursday, Jan. 17.
The Lancers improved to 9-4 overall, 6-1 in the CCC South while the Rams fell to 6-6 overall and 4-4 in CCC South play.
Eastern held Central to just under 26 percent shooting from the field while limiting the Rams to only three total second half field goals.
“I thought that Karissa (Smith) and Daijia did a better job at taking up the middle,” said Floyd. “We didn’t even get a chance to practice for this game (because of the snow storm) and it was just going from what we know and what we scouted.”
“I thought they did a nice job adjusting in the game.”
And the Lancers did some very good things on the offensive end as well.
Brooks led all players with 19 points while snatching up seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
Her defense was a big reason for the Lancers’ success on the night.
Smith netted 12 points (off just seven field goal attempts), eight rebounds, two blocked shots, and two steals while freshman Jamilla Shoultz also spurred the defense with six rebounds, a team high five steals while scoring four points of her own.
Smith didn’t get her normal shooting opportunities and Central’s defense had a hand in doing just that.”
“Defensively, we did a great a job in the first half in our zone shutting down Karissa (Smith) and giving us a chance,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet. “We limited her opportunities.”
Amanda Zdun pushed in five points and made two steals while point guard Cassie Aiken came through with two rebounds and three assists.
Gianna D’Amato, Kristy Lescrynski, Eva Draka, Morgan Dauphinee (two rebounds) and Mia Farias (two points) all played well for Eastern.
Central hung around at the half, down by only six, but its offense stalled out in the third frame as points – as well as shooting attempts – were at a premium.
Erika Monsalve was the driving force in the first half as her ten points were a big reason why Central hung around in the game.
Monsalve made several strong drives to the hoop as she scooped in hoops at critical times to keep things close.
Ashley Elder added six points but was harassed and hounded by Zdun and the like the entire evening.
“Amanda Zdun, defensively, shut Elder down,” said Eastern coach Tony. “I got good play from Aiken and the little freshmen guard Morgan Dauphainee. They did a really super job for me. (Dauphinee) came in and did some nice things for me today.”
Lauren Bossi picked up two points, six rebounds and four assists while Gretchen Edelman added five points.
Eastern’s defense kept the Rams off the scoreboard early as Brooks went right to work.
Brooks threw in a lay-up, later banked home a three-pointer, and finally hit a long jumper off a feed by Zdun as the Lancers seized a 7-0 push with 4:57 left in the first frame.
After Smith and Monsalve exchanged hoops, Central went on a 6-2 run to close the period out.
Monsalve zipped in two hoops while Edelman and Bossi tossed in one free throw apiece as Central was only trailing by one possession at 11-8 after eight minutes of action.
“I’m proud of the girls, the way they responded” off the Eastern run, said Gaudet. “And we came back. Erika hit a shot at the end of the first (quarter) to get us back in there. I’m definitely proud of the effort these girls put in tonight.”
The Rams challenged Eastern into the second stanza as Monsalve made two straight hoops for Central.
The game was a 13-12 affair with 5:32 left before the half as the Lancers were hanging on by a point.
But over a span of 3:12, Eastern went on a 6-0 run as Shoultz hit a lay-up, Brooks followed with a jumper and Farias hit a hoop from the baseline to post the Lancers to a 19-12 lead with 2:20 left in the second.
Bossi ended the scoring with a charity toss as Central trailed by only two possessions, 19-13, at intermission.
“Monsalve was the key in the first half,” said Gaudet. “She played very well. She had two pretty poor performances the last two games out with turnovers and taking care of the ball. In a big game like this against your cross-town rivals, she came to play.”
“It was nice to see…she responded very nicely.”
Brooks hit her second 3-pointer of the game and Eastern led by nine early in the third period.
“We knew taking Karissa out (defensively), we’re leaving somebody open,” said Gaudet. “Brooks made us pay a couple times. She hit big three-pointers, the one she banked in, the one from the corner…she hit some big shots for them. She was a catalyst for them tonight.”
Again, Central would hang around in the tilt as a lay up by Elder cut the deficit to 23-17 with 5:44 left in the third but the squad didn’t score another point in the fray.
Eastern ended the period with nine straight point as Brooks and Shoultz hit back-to-back floaters, Zdun drilled a lay up and she finished off the quarter with a huge three-point bomb to push the Lancers in front 32-17 with one period left.
“Jamela, in the second half, did a nice job rebounding and getting loose balls, which she didn’t do in the first half and the same thing with Karissa and Daijia,” said Floyd. “And Daijia did a good job on Bossi. We just had great team defense in the second half.”
“There was excellent team defense which is what I was pleased about.”
In the final period, Edelman hit a shot off a nice feed by Bossi as Central closed the gap to 34-21 with 6:04 remaining.
But the Eastern defense didn’t allow any additional Central field goals from that point as the Lancers ended the game with a 10-4 jaunt.
Smith netted five points in the run and off one last hoop by Draka, Eastern had victory number eight in hand as the Lancers were 19-point victors on the road.
“I was pleased how we got into transition in the second half,” said Floyd. “Overall, I thought we played pretty well. We didn’t turn the ball over a lot and that was good. It was just a matter of finishing shots and making our foul shots and putting ourselves in a position where you’re going to win games, the close games.”
“That’s what we’re going to have to do when we play these teams down the road this season.”
NOTES…The Rams out-rebounded Eastern by seven in the game but the Lancers held the offensive rebounding edge by three…Eastern has qualified for the state tournament every year since 1996…Central remains just two games out of playoff qualification this season.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver. com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE