By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – A new season of scholastic hardwood action brings either elation or misery.
And that’s only after the first game of the season.
So, in the case of the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team, there was a little more misery than elation as the Lancers dropped its home opener to a very spry Manchester squad, 78-60, in a CCC Interdivisional showdown from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol on Wednesday, Dec. 18.
The Indians (1-0) might have lost its entire starting line-up from last season but the squad was a group of quick assassins and sharpshooters who took every opportunity it could muster against Eastern and turned every missed basket, every turnover, and every failed drive into quick points.
And once Manchester got into transition, the team was oh-so-good in scoring off those makes whether it were points in a paint – resulting in several lay-ups – or daggers from the outside for three points at a clip.
Off the rebound by the Indians, the squad simply headed for the paint for high percentage opprotunities.
Once Eastern lost its edge in the second stanza of action, the home team never got it back.
“We were a step slow in defensive transition,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “We were very poor at helping on defense whether it was versus penetration or versus back door. We were very slow helping and rotating on that which was causing all the easy looks underneath.”
“When we did shut them down, they kicked the ball out and made three-pointers.”
“It was a pretty good team with a lot of answers,” said Giovinazzo of Manchester.
Eastern was led by Kevin Love, who kicked in a game best 15 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists.
He also tallied two blocks and two steals in the fray while Eric Therrier was big with 12 points and nine rebounds in a gritty 28 minute effort.
“Eric was outstanding,” said Giovinazzo of Therrien. “I give him short breaks so he doesn’t get tired but his effort was outstanding tonight. If everybody else picks up off of that and plays off of his intensity, we’re going to be okay.”
Ernest Wallace made his Bristol Eastern debut and did very well off the bench in 16 minutes of play.
The senior nabbed eight points and three rebounds while displaying toughness out on the court.
Daron McKoy flipped in seven points – nailing two three-pointers – while Mike Belton also slipped in seven.
Austin Dias showed spunk off the Eastern pine with five points while Darieyn Tate played in his first varsity game ever and managed to snare three points and three rebounds.
Savion Wade collected two points and two points off the bench and Alex Hunter dished off two assists in the losing effort.
But it all wasn’t doom and gloom for Eastern and even as Manchester took an early lead in the game, the Lancers came rip-roaring back to make a game out of it.
Manchester led 12-6 off a hoop. But from that point, Eastern used a 11-2 push to take a 17-14 edge at the end of eight minutes of action.
Therrien hit for four straight points while Love drained a big three-pointer with 1:44 left in the first frame as Eastern took its first edge in the game.
From there, Hunter hit a free throw and Dias knocked in a huge three-pointer as the Lancers led by three by the first period horn.
It was a big showing by Eastern’s bench as it helped the team capture the lead.
“As I’ve said, every night is an audition for these guys,” said Giovinazzo. “If they don’t do the job, we’re going to put somebody else in there that does. We’ve got some answers and we’ve got some guys that can help us.”
“They’re going to get the playing time.”
But that lead wouldn’t hold as McKoy hit a free throw to give Eastern a 18-16 push but off 10 quick Manchester points – highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers, the Indians led 26-18 with 5:09 remaining before intermission..
Off an offensive rebound and put-back by Wallace, Manchester ended the frame with a 9-3 jaunt and by the half, Eastern trailed by 12, 35-23.
“Our shot selection, our ball handling, our passing, everything you need for a efficient offense was not there,” said Giovinazzo. “A lot of our baskets, they were not by design. They were just accidental. We’ve got to polish up our offense. We’ve got to handle the ball better, pass the ball better, and obviously shoot better.”
Off a fade away jumper by Belton, Manchester went on a 13-3 run and with 5:00 left in the third, the Indians had its first 20-point lead at 48-28.
Eastern fell behind by as many as twenty-two points in the stanza and with eight minutes remaining, Manchester’s lead was 60-41.
Manchester hit three straight lay-ups to open the final tilt and with 5:50 remaining, the Indians were in front 67-41.
From that point, Eastern used a 17-6 burst to cut the deficit to 15 and off a Dias jumper, Manchester’s cushion was cut to 73-58 with just under a minute left.
But time simply ran out on the Lancers as the visiting squad came away from Bristol with an 18-point victory against Eastern.
“It’s not a very good start,” said Giovinazzo of the loss. “I’m not very happy. I can’t think of any phase of the game that we were good at. We did show some heart in the last four or five minutes and competed and I guess if there’s anything, that’s the only positive we can draw from and hopefully build on that.”