By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Bristol Eastern girls basketball team turns up the heat defensively in its games, it usually leads to numerous offensive chances for the squad.
However, it’s up to Eastern to cash those miscues into hoops.
When the Lancers couldn’t do that in its game against Bristol Central on Thursday, Jan. 23, the Rams were able to hang around in the affair.
But once those turnovers were converted into points, that’s when Eastern increased its advantage in the game.
It was the third period that doomed the visiting squad as the Lancers – leading only by six at the half – pushed its cushion out to 29-points on its way to a 53-36 victory from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium.
The victory propelled Eastern to 7-4 overall and 5-1 in the CCC South while Central fell to 8-4 and 3-4 in league play.
Eastern forced 30 turnovers in the affair and in the third period alone, the Lancers totaled 22 points with a number of those coming off lay-ups and high percentage buckets via Central gaffs and turnovers.
But credit belongs to the Rams as the team never gave in, tallied a couple second period leads and trailed by just six points (21-15) at the half.
“They worked hard in the first half,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet of his team. “Eventually, if you turn the ball over 30 times, give Eastern 20 offensive rebounds, you know, how many extra possessions are we going to give them? You’re not going to win any games that way.”
“You’re not going to win any games with extra opportunities on the offensive glass and (we) just turned the ball over too much.”
No one from Central tallied more than nine points in the showdown. However, Chandler Walker showed her usual toughness on the defensive end, blocked some shots, rebounded the ball and just missed scoring in double-figures by a single point.
West Point bound Christina Bouvier added six points, as did teammate Esharra Walton. Lauren Vallee poked in five points in the fray.
Ali Martel dropped in three points off the bench but showed great ball movement and tried to hook her mates up in the paint with some pin-point passing.
Eastern’s Daijia Brooks led all players with 20 points and also wrangled up five rebounds, two assists, and three blocked shots.
“Daijia made some key shots for us when we were struggling outside,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “She made a couple jumpers, a couple put-backs…I thought that was key until everybody got on track.”
Amanda Zdun hit several clutch shots and ended the fray with 19 points, three rebounds, four assists, and three steals while Jamilla Shoultz nailed in four points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
Mia Farias had two points and two rebounds while point-guard Cassie Aiken didn’t score a point but zipped up a team-high nine rebounds – seven on the offensive end – and dished out four assists.
Off the bench, Gianna D’Amato collected three rebounds and nearly came away with a half-dozen steals.
Morgan Dauphinee showed a little pop and added four points and two steals as the defense on the Eastern side of things showed grit, ability and intensity.
“I thought they were able to keep that intensity from the get-go all the way through the game,” said Floyd. “We got probably four good quarters (tonight). But I thought the kids were focused at the beginning of the game (to the end).”
Credit Vallee with handling the ball for the Rams even though the 30 turnovers might not have told the whole story.
Vallee attacked the pressure, broke it more than her share, and attempted to get her mates down court with the ball.
Early on, Eastern forced quick turnovers but didn’t increase its lead as missed shots began to pile up.
“I thought we were rushing things,” said Floyd of the offense. “We needed one more dribble. We were forcing things. I thought in the second half, we did a lot better job making those passes.”
Two quick lay-ups by Zdun helped the Lancers’ cause. However, a Walker lay-in off a feed by Erika Monsalve kept things close early.
Brooks netted Eastern’s final five points of the first stanza. However, a jumper by Vallee, a hoop by Martel, and a blazing three-pointer from Vallee knotted the score at 9-9 after one period of action.
An offensive rebound and put-back by Walker gave Central an 11-9 lead with 7:19 left in the half. However, a quick 6-0 Eastern run put the Lancers back on top.
Brooks hit two field goals and D’Amato snuck in a lay-up to make it a 15-11 game with 3:34 left before intermission.
Bouvier flipped in a Central miss before huge back-to-back three-pointers by Zdun propelled the home squad to a 21-13 push with 38 seconds left in the second.
“In the second quarter, we did a little bit better job,” said Floyd about the offense. “A couple kids started to chip in here and there.”
One last hoop by Bouvier ended the first-half scoring as Central was down but not out, trailing by just six at 21-15.
“For the first half, we were in it because (Eastern) missed some shots,” said Gaudet. “But then Brooks started getting hot in the second half. You can’t keep giving her opportunity after opportunity and Zdun hit some shots. We knew we had to stop (Brooks and Zdun). We stopped them for a half but they’re great players and they made big shots in the second half.”
In the third period, Eastern kept up its defensive pressure. Finally, the Lancers were turning defense into offense.
Eastern started the third period with a 12-3 jaunt as a baseline hoop by Farias and a jumper from Brooks gave the home team a 33-18 edge with 3:12 remaining in the frame.
Walker hit a free throw and Walton nailed in a short shot to stop the bleeding but the Lancers were looking to end the stanza with a flourish.
Off the power of a 10-2 period ending burst, Eastern nabbed its first 20-point cushion of the game.
Zdun drilled her third three-pointer, Shoultz banked in a shot, Brooks completed a nifty three-point play, and Farias found Diana Wnuk for one last basket as Eastern led 43-23 with eight minutes to go.
The Lancers made sure its cushion would last as Eastern went on a quick 10-1 fourth period push to take an imposing 29-point lead with 4:06 remaining.
Brooks hit a hoop and Zdun followed up with two more while Dauphinee flipped in a long jumper and followed that with a steal and lay-up, giving the Lancers a 53-24 tally.
Central never gave up, holding the Lancers off the scoreboard from that point in the game.
Hamel kicked in a nifty three-pointer. Walton canned another couple hoops in the paint. Martel hit a free throw. Jenn Fannon made two charity shots. Bouvier ended the night with one last hoop with 5.9 seconds to play.
But in the end, it was another triumph for the Lancers and a big 17-point win.