Eastern opens states with victory

By MICHAEL LETENDRE
STAFF WRITER
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern girls basketball team opened its Class L first round game in style on Monday, Feb. 25.
Displaying a little defensive flare and intensity over the second half of the showdown, No. 14 Eastern downed No. 19 Guilford 49-29 from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol.
The Lancers (15-6) advanced to the second round to take on CCC South rival Berlin in what should be a very competitive bout.
Guilford fell to 13-8 on the year and was eliminated from tournament play.
After a close first half of play, it was all Eastern from there on in.
Eastern used its size to overpower Guilford and when the visiting club missed a hoop, it was usually one shot and out.
And then was the defensive aspect of the game.
After the Indians scored 17 first half points and trailed only by four at the half, Guilford only notched 12 points over the next 16 minutes of action as Eastern’s defense did the job.
“They played two good quarters in that second half defensively and offensively,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd about his squad. “They executed, they also played great defense and I was very pleased about that.”
The stingy Eastern defense forced Guilford into shooting just under 24 percent from the field and the visitors were out-rebounded 49-29 during the fray.
Karissa Smith led all players with 17 points and also added seven rebounds, two assists, and four steals while hitting seven of nine field goals overall.
Sophomore Daijia Brooks was dominant as well, racking up an impressive double-double with 13 points, 18 rebounds, three assists, and four blocked shots.
The duo, combining for 25 rebounds, just about out-rebounded the entire Guilford team all by themselves.
And when they operated inside on the offensive end, there wasn’t an equal on the Indians’ side of the floor to match the Smith/Brooks combo.
“Karissa and Daijia did an excellent job inside,” said Floyd. “They took advantage of the mismatches and they just really controlled the inside paint, on rebounding, and also getting some put-backs as well.”
And then there was a critical contribution from guard Amanda Zdun.
Zdun missed her first eight shots of the game before making three of her next four and those makes were all from three-point territory.
Once Zdun found her groove in the third period of play, Eastern quickly increased its lead and the game shortly became a blowout.
“Amanda’s been doing really well the last couple of games,” said Floyd of Zdun. “She getting so much confidence with her shot and she’s been shooting well.”
Freshman Jamella Shoultz was everywhere on the court for Eastern as she tallied up six points, an impressive 11 rebounds, a team best seven assists, and four steals in a full evening’s worth of work.
Point guard Cassie Aiken added two points, three rebounds, and two assists in the winning effort.
The Lancers also got a critical contribution from freshman Gianna D’Amato (two assists) while Kristy Lescrynski tallied a steal and played some valuable minutes during the second quarter of action.
Eastern didn’t allow Guilford any players to score in double figures as Meredith Shank netted eight points for the Indians.
It was a struggle for both teams over the first period as Eastern couldn’t get any separation from Guilford and after eight minutes of action, the Indians led 11-8 and were in control.
The lead changed hands three times in the second quarter but off Zdun’s first three-pointer of the game – plus a Smith lay-up off a sweet feed from D’Amato – Eastern snared a 19-15 edge with 1:06 left to go in the first half.
Off one final basket by Brooks, the Lancers held a 21-17 push at the intermission break.
“We sort of struggled in the beginning and I think both teams did,” said Floyd. “But in the second half, we did a really great job (defending) on the shooters. They have some really good three-point shooters (which) we lost in the first half but in the second half, we found where they were and locked them down. I was very pleased about that.”
The Lancers got back into the contest by shooting 10-of-17 from the floor in the second half and continued to rebound the ball very well. But the defensive energy Eastern showed was unmatched by Guilford and that led to several offensive chances for the Lancers.
Zdun scored two three-pointers in the squad’s 10-0 run to start the third and made it a 31-17 game with 6:09 left to go in the tilt.
The lead ballooned to 15 points at its height but off a hoop from Shank and a lay-up by Tori Loukakes, Guilford was hanging around at the completion of three quarters with the home team leading 34-23.
And in the fourth and final frame, the Lancers threw a knockout punch to end any late suspense.
The Lancers scored the first 14 points of the final period, including a beautiful Brooks’s lay in off a behind the back pass from Shoultz, and with 2:05 remaining, Eastern snared a 49-25 cushion.
There would not be a comeback bid by the Indians as Eastern’s defense held firm.
Late in the game, Eastern’s Anna Kelly and Emily DeNote made appearances in the contest and at the final horn, the Lancers were 20-point winners in the Class L, first round battle.
“It was a great team effort,” said Floyd. “It was a great team effort both offensively and defensively. Those were two great quarters for our kids (in the second half).”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com