By MICHAEL LETENDRE
FARMINGTON – Bouncing back from tough losses has been a specialty of the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team over the first four games of its season this year.
And after a near miss against Avon the previous day, a young squad from Enfield was no match for a surly Eastern squad.
The Lancers picked up the early edge, never let it get below two possessions and blew it open late as Eastern won the NCCC/CCC Challenge Consolation game by a 67-43 final from Farmington High School on Saturday, Dec. 28.
It was an impressive victory for Eastern (2-2) and while the team just missed picking off Avon on the previous night, the Lancers took out its aggression on the Raiders (0-4) to get back to the pay window.
And all those shots that didn’t fall against Avon easily fell in against Enfield as the Lancers drilled over 48-percent of its attempts from the field.
Plus, thanks to Eastern’s great defense, it led to an even crisper offensive attack.
“We really didn’t have a chance to practice it so we just had to talk about it,” said Giovinazzo of the game. “We felt like we got good shots the other night, we just didn’t knock them down. We kind of wanted to do the same thing but we really talked about playing better defense tonight.”
While the Lancers’ defense held Enfield to 16-of-50 shooting from the field, just about everyone from the Eastern squad made a contribution.
Kevin Love bounced back from a tough encounter against Avon with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists.
That was complimented by another stellar effort from Ernest Wallace as he flipped in 10 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Darieyn Tate picked up a very credible stat-line that included a season-high of eight points, seven assists and five steals to go along with three rebounds.
Both Wallace and Tate were named to the NCCC/CCC All Tournament Team.
“(The duo) was extremely physical, extremely energetic,” said Giovinazzo of Wallace and Tate. “They got us going on the defensive end on the floor with loose balls. (Defensively), also the job Darieyn did on their best player (Rachone Preston). That kid is a tough kid to guard and Tate did just a great job.”
“I don’t know what he ended up with but he worked for every one of them.”
Preston pumped in 18 points but each hoop he connected on was more difficult than the last.
But outside of Preston’s scoring effort, there wasn’t much going right for the Raiders.
Eastern’s Eric Therrien added 11 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots in a busy night of action while Daron McKoy added five points and two rebounds.
And then there was a tremendous bench effort for the Eastern squad from the trio of George Taylor, Alex Hunter, and Savion Wade.
Taylor played a season-high 19 minutes and scooped in nine points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals while Hunter notched two points and snared four rebounds.
Wade zipped in a couple Wallace passes for six points and a blocked shot while Tyler Tefoe (one block) and Riley Mason (two points, rebound) got into the action.
“I’ve said many times, we can go nine or 10 deep and we don’t lose anything,” said Giovinazzo. “It was nice. I think (our depth) was one of the factors that wore Enfield down in the second half.”
Off a hoop by Anthony Gowdy-Jimenez that opened the game, Eastern went on a 9-0 burst to go ahead by seven with 2:31 left in the first quarter.
Later, Love hit a jumper and Taylor threw in a 3-pointer as the Lancers went in front 14-6 after eight minutes of action.
It took the Raiders a while to finally get on the board in the second frame but off three Tate free throws and a hoop by Therrien, Eastern’s edge was increased to 19-6 with 5:31 left in the first half as the Lancers’ defense was making it hard for Enfield to score.
“Here’s a team that’s playing with a lot of emotion (and) they’re a young team,” said Giovinazzo of Enfield. “You can’t give them anything that’s going to wake them up so we tried to apply that kind of pressure and hopefully be able to take them out of their game.”
“It seemed to work.”
Credit to Enfield, the squad went on a bit of a run, 15-8 to be exact, to end the second stanza as Eastern’s lead was chopped 27-21 at the half.
But that solid play would fail the Raiders as Eastern’s defense once again came to the forefront.
And eventually, that lead ballooned back to 13 again as Therrien and Love both hit conventional three-point plays in the period and off one last hoop by Love, the Lancers led 41-28.
“We had to lock (Enfield) up, put more pressure on them, and make them have to work a little harder for it,” said Giovinazzo. “I think we created a lot of offense off our defense tonight.”
The Raiders remained pesky into the fourth period but every time Enfield put in a hoop, Eastern quickly responded.
Wade got into the act with back-to-back hoops, Therrien hit a basket off feeds by Taylor and Tate, Love and George added field goals and eventually, an offensive rebound and put-back by Mason ended the scoring as Eastern won the fray by 24 points.
“When you come into a tournament like this, of course you’d love to win it, but if you don’t and you end up with a split, I can live with it,” said Giovinazzo.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE