By MICHAEL LETENDRE
The Bristol Eastern girls basketball team only lost two seniors from its 2012-13 squad but the loss of captain Karissa Smith is certainly a tough one to absorb.
The Lancers have some hired guns to put the ball into the hoop but will that void in the middle be too tough to fill?
Eastern always seems to find a way to put all its pieces into play on the court and expect another quality campaign from the Lancers.
And outside of Smith, there’s a returning presence on this squad and here’s what to expect from Eastern this year:
Head Coach: Tony Floyd (34th season, 468-263)
Last Season: 15-7 overall (No. 14 Bristol Eastern lost in second round to third ranked Berlin, 55-50 in overtime in a Class L challenge
Key Losses: Karissa Smith (C/F, now playing volleyball for Western Connecticut State University).
CCC South All Conference Players: Karissa Smith (C/F); Daijia Brooks (G/F); Amanda Zdun (G).
Probable Returners: Amanda Zdun (sr., G); Daijia Brooks (jr., G/F); Cassie Aiken (sr., G); Gianna D’Amato (so., G); Jamella Shoultz (so., G/F).
What to expect: With the loss of just Smith, there’s plenty of experienced players coming back into the mix in 2013-14 and Eastern should be a little quicker on the hardwood this year.
If everyone returns, the scoring load should be handled by senior sharp-shooter Amanda Zdun, sophomore jack-of-all-trades Jamella Shoultz, and designated junior scorer Daijia Brooks.
Zdun is a talented shooter from downtown and will be one of the leaders of the squad this season as will senior point guard Cassie Aiken who has been getting major minutes since she her sophomore campaign.
When Shoultz wasn’t scoring last season, she was rebounding and dishing off the ball early and often.
If her offensive game ever caught up to the rest of her abilities, watch out.
But Brooks is the real deal and when she’s on and rolling, you can forget about stopping her.
Against Middletown last season, she smashed in 39 points in a big 71-58 Eastern victory while scoring in double-figures 18 times in 2012-13.
The Lancers could also see gains from back-up guard Gianna D’Amato while forward Mia Farias might be a big on court contributor as well.
Eastern could be a tough ticket to tangle with if it could ever get back to its vaunted full-court, pressure defense that gave opponents fits over the years.
The key is simply finding the answers in the middle defensively as teams will, undoubtedly, attack the Lancers in the paint.
At 15-7 last season, 14th rated Eastern disposed of No. 19 Guilford 49-29 in the first round of the Class L bracket while getting robbed in the second round as the Lancers fell in overtime at Berlin, 55-50.
The Lancers haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1994-95 campaign and don’t expect the squad to do so by the end February.
Here’s a quick look at the Lancers’ up-coming schedule:
Date Opponent Location Time
Wednesday, Dec. 11 vs. Tolland Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 13 at Platt at Platt 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 17 at South Windsor at South Windsor 7 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 23 at Middletown at Middletown 7 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 26 at Danbury Tourney at Danbury War Memorial 7:30 pm
Saturday, Dec. 28 at Danbury Tourney at Danbury War Memorial TBD
Friday, Jan. 3 vs. Farmington Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 6 at Berlin at Berlin 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 9 at Plainville at Ivan Wood Gymnasium 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 13 vs. Maloney Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 16 at Bulkeley at Babe Allen Field House 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 21 vs. Platt Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 23 vs. Bristol Central Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 28 at NW Catholic at NW Catholic 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 31 vs. Middletown Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 4 vs. Berlin Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 7 vs. Plainville Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Maloney at Francis T. Maloney Gym 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 14 vs. Bulkeley Thomas M. Monahan Gym 7 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 17 at Bristol Central at Bristol Central 7 p.m.
CCC South – 2012-13 Season
School Overall / Pct. CCC South / Pct.
Berlin 20-3 / .870 14-0 / 1.000
Bristol Eastern 15-7 / .682 1 2-2 / .857
Middletown 11-10 / .524 9-5 / .643
Plainville 10-11 / .476 8-6 / .571
Bristol Central 11-11 / .500 7-7 / .500
Platt 6-14 / .300 4-10 / .286
Maloney 4-16 / .200 2-12 / .143
Bulkeley 1-19 / .050 0-14 / .000