By MICHAEL LETENDRE
WESTON – With the game all tied up at 55-55 against Weston with just 18 seconds remaining in regulation, it looked as if the Bristol Central boys basketball team was heading for overtime against the Trojans.
Unless it could make a game-winning shot somewhere in that 18-second time frame.
With the game still in the balance and without the use of a timeout, the Rams went for it, dribbled down the clock, and looked for one last shot.
A two or a three-pointer would do the job for Central.
However, would Weston allow the Rams a game-winning attempt?
It didn’t seem that way as Bristol Central point guard Joey DeFillippi was seemingly stopped dead in his tracks with the ball and precious few seconds left on the clock.
It would take a miracle shot to steal away the victory.
With a couple trees in front of him – Weston’s big men stood in DeFillippi’s path – there was no clear look at the rim from behind the three-point line and the horn to sound the end of regulation was about to go off.
Somehow, someway, DeFillippi floated up a shot – just beating that final buzzer – as his three-pointer cleanly fell through the net and Central celebrated on the floor, fashioning an improbable 58-55 non-conference victory from Weston High School on Saturday, Dec. 21.
The Rams (1-1) won for the first time this season and DeFillippi’s incredible final shot – off a broken play – dropped in to cap off not just a big win, but a victory over the 2012-13 Class M state runner-up.
Central, which led by 11 points in the final stanza of play, had to hold on to dear life as a 20-9 run by Weston notched the game at 55-55. The Trojans looked to be poised to force the showdown into an at least one overtime session.
But DeFillippi would have none of that as he slipped in the game-winning shot right in front of Central’s bench as the fans— who made the over one-hour trek to Weston— went into a frenzy off the final hoop of the game.
“He’s what I call a gamer,” said Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette of DeFillippi. “I have no worries when the ball is in his hands. Even when he turns it over, I never worry when he has the ball because in the end, he normally makes the decision or shot that counts.”
DeFillippi stuffed the stat-sheet with 14 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals against the Trojans while big man Jake Collins added a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Landon Rutledge zipped up 11 points and scooped up nine rebounds – getting five on the offensive end of things – while Manny Severino nailed in seven points and two rebounds before fouling out.
Ty Hamel battled foul trouble but still contributed with four points, three rebounds, and two assists while L.J. Johnson added two rebounds and two assists.
Kyle Pileski came off the bench and did a little of everything for the Rams.
His four points and bench leading five rebounds were huge while Devin Francis and “Dangerous” D.J. Dort also made contributions in the winning effort.
It was an entire team effort that propelled Bristol to its first victory of the season.
Only one player scored in double-figured for Weston and that was the 13 points tossed in by senior Asher Lee-Tyson.
Brian Cass and Ethan Lee-Tyson both added nine points in the losing effort for the Trojans.
Pascal Arvoy tallied six points and a team best eight rebounds for the Trojans.
The contest featured five lead changes and five ties as both squads couldn’t sustain any major leads in the fray.
“Weston is a good team,” said Barrette. “They made the state finals last year. We knew coming down to their gym on opening night was not going to be an easy game. But I’d rather play good teams like we’ve have than to be tested on later in the season.”
To start the game, the Rams looked a bit rattled as Weston came out of the gate hot defensively.
Barrette credits an early timeout as he quickly calmed his squad down as Central committed four turnovers in a matter of 1:49 and looked out of sync to open the game.
“Early on, we were getting frustrated,” said Barrette. “Officials cannot take us out of the game.”
And it certainly worked as the Rams settled down and went to work.
DeFillippi nailed a three-pointer, Rutledge flipped in a shot, Collins hit a jumper while Hamel and Pileski each tallied free throws and Central only trailed Weston by three points (12-9) after eight minutes of work.
“I told our guys you have to play through adversity,” said Barrette. “There’s no other sport than basketball where something goes wrong and 10 seconds later, you can make a play to redeem yourself.”
Ashley Lee-Tyson opened the second frame with a three-pointer as Weston’s edge was its biggest at 15-9 with 7:49 left before the half.
But Central used a 9-0 push to rack up a three-point lead as Johnson threw in a three-pointer and the Rams led 18-15 with 6:03 before intermission.
Weston eventually went ahead by one but off two DeFillippi free throws, the Rams went in front 24-20. Eventually, Central carried a 27-25 lead into the half.
Severino – in foul trouble most of the evening – scored four early points for Central and off a 12-5 burst, capped by a Severino three-pointer and two lay-ups by Hamel, the Rams led by nine and carried a 41-32 tilt into the final period of play.
A free throw by Weston’s Ethan Lee-Tyson cut the deficit to six to open the fourth frame. But a three-point play by Rutledge and a lay-up by DeFillippi propelled Central to its biggest lead of the night at 46-35 with 6:49 left to play.
And even off another lay in by Rutledge – off a steal and stellar behind-the-back pass by Johnson – the Central edge was still eight, 50-42, with 4:22 remaining in regulation.
But missed hoops and a couple offensive fouls that led to turnovers seemed to frustrate the Rams as Weston turned those misses into an 11-3 jaunt.
Two free throws by Pascal Arvoy and five straight points by Ethan Lee-Tyson – including a blistering three-pointer – knotted the contest at 53-53 apiece.
With 35 seconds left, Pileski found Collins for a hoop as Central reclaimed the lead while 17 seconds later, Asher Lee-Tyson hit a jumper and the game was a 55-55 affair.
And then just seconds later, DeFillippi hit his three-ball at the buzzer as Central walked away a big winner against Weston, 58-55.
“Overall, it was a total team effort from (player) one through 10 tonight that played,” said Barrette. “We’re happy to get home with a victory in a tough battle like this.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE