By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Central boys basketball team threw down a beating on crosstown rival Bristol Eastern on Friday, Jan. 24 as the Rams wrapped up a 68-45 victory from home in a CCC South tilt.
And for Central (9-1), it’s was the squad’s ninth straight victory as the team is truly rolling at the midway point of the season.
Defense was Central’s calling card of the evening – and the year for that matter – as Eastern was limited to just 32-percent shooting in the affair.
The Rams forced 21 turnovers, When the Lancers hit a hoop, Central sprinted back to the other end of the floor to match the bucket.
But when the Rams made its huge third period run, a devastating 21-2 jaunt, it was all about defense.
“That’s what we preach all year,” said Central coach Tim Barrette about defense. “And that’s been winning us games. Tonight, we were able to take our defense and get us into offense.”
“I wanted to try to get some turnovers, loose balls and push and I thought we were at our best tonight when we were in transition.”
But Eastern (4-6) was right there at the doorstep at the half, trailing by just 11 points (36-25), and seemingly a couple hoops from making it a game again.
The bottom fell out on the Lancers in that third period and going into the fourth frame, 24 straight points by Central took the wind out of the Lancers’ collective sails as the visitors quickly trailed 62-37.
“My goal was to, maybe get it down to five or six by the end of the third quarter,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “(The players) came out like they never heard a word at halftime. The shot selection was awful. You know defensively, I expected them to wear us down because they’re so big and so strong.”
“But our shot selection was the biggest culprit…that’s what put us in a hole.”
Central made each and every Eastern look at the hoop a nightmare as the bigger and stronger team limited the Lancers in just about every facet of the game.
And when Eastern managed to snare an offensive rebound, the result was usually another missed hoop.
“We knew we weren’t going to get second shots,” said Giovinazzo. “So the shot we took had to be the best possible one. We didn’t do that. It was awful.”
Credit belongs to the Lancers’ duo of Savion Wade and Eric Therrien.
Therrien battled and battle, leading the way with 11 points, and eight rebounds while Wade put the ball on the floor and tallied eight points and seven rebounds on the night.
Darieyn Tate battled as well, collecting nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
But that energy level from those players couldn’t fuel the entire squad.
“Those guys played as well as they played all year,” said Giovinazzo of Wade and Therrien. “They’re not superior athletes. They’re certainly matched up against guys who are bigger, stronger and faster than them but you know what, they’re fundamentally sound and they did a great job.”
“I was extremely happy with them, as well as Darieyn Tate…I thought Darieyn played very under control and he did a good job.”
The Rams played an amazing stretch to open the fray, hitting its first 13-of-22 shots, and spread the offense around.
That outstanding play led to a 34-16 push with 3:03 left to go before the half.
“I thought we played 14 minutes of unselfish basketball,” said Barette of the first half. “I was very upset with my guys went we went into halftime even though we were up 11 because we had a two minute stretch where we became selfish and it brought (Eastern) right back in the game.”
“We talked about that, to share the basketball…I know in a big game people are trying to get theirs but when we moved the ball tonight, for 30 minutes, we were a very good basketball team.”
Balance was key for Central and that was certainly evident in the contest.
Manny Severino was a warrior, hitting a number of backbreaking shots that led to 17 points – including three three-pointers and 13 first half points. Big Jacob Collins also hit for 17 and did a little something in every quarter.
Ty Hamel added 10 big points. L.J. Johnson was clutch with seven. While point guard Joey DeFillippi only notched three points, he was in playmaker mode throughout the night and was exactly the floor general Barrette was craving.
Landon Rutledge tallied eight points and pesky Kyle Pileski slipped in four points.
Central hit 50-percent of its field goals attempts in the game, forced 15 steals, and collected an amazing 19 assists off 27 hoops as the Ram’s ball movement was off the charts. Eastern captured an early 6-5 push off baskets by Tate, Wade, and Therrien. Even as a three-pointer from Daron McKoy (six points) gave Eastern a one-point edge with 3:58 left in the first period, Central came right back.
The Rams used a 10-2 run to take the lead for good as hoops from Rutledge, Collins, and Severino as well a free throw by Hamel pushed the edge to seven before Central settled on an 18-12 cushion after one quarter of play.
Continuing its hot shooting exploits, the Rams opened the second stanza off a 16-4 burst and zipped up an 18-point lead.
Central hit from inside and out during the scoring bonanza. To top it all off, DeFillippi nailed a huge three-pointer to the delight of the crowd as the Rams’ 34-16 push had the Lancers on its collective heels.
“You can’t focus on (just) anybody,” said Giovinazzo. “You can’t pack the lane, they’ll beat you from the outside. You can’t extend because they’ll drive by you. And if you play behind the post, they turn and post you up.”
“They pretty much have an answer for everything.”
But Eastern refocused and ended the half off a little 9-2 burst of its own.
Tate connected on a three-point play. Taylor hit a free throw. Mike Belton (four points, five rebounds) drilled a hoop from the baseline. Therrien blasted in a huge three-point bomb to end the run.
While the Lancers trailed by 11 at the half, the squad was certainly in striking distance.
Landon hit a quick lay-up to open the third. But Belton matched it as Eastern was hanging in there, down just 38-27 with 7:34 left in the stanza.
But the next Eastern hoop came nine minutes later as that lack of offense doomed the Lancers.
“For a while there, all we had to do was make a key shot here or there, get a key stop, and it would have been a game,” said Giovinazzo. “Our guys didn’t realize how fast it could get out of control tonight. One or two bad shots and all of a sudden, they’re running down the court, driving to the hoop, dumping it down to the big men, or flying to the glass. All of a sudden, we’re running up hill.”
It was a 19-0 third period sprint as Severino started that jaunt with a hoop and Pileski ended it with two free throws.
By the end of the frame, Central was in command at 57-27 as the home team easily won the quarter.
“We ran that first set right off the bat and got the lay-up,” said Barrette off the Landon hoop. “That just kind of jump-started us. We talked about winning the first four minutes of the third quarter in every game as the most important minutes of the game to me to set the tone.”
“We did that tonight and it propelled us to where we finished.”
Over the first 59 seconds of the final stanza, Collins zipped up five straight points and that 62-27 tally on the scoreboard was certainly imposing with 7:01 remaining to play.
Wade hit two consecutive shots to finally stop the bleeding. But by that time, Barrette started to rotate his bench into the game as Eastern trailed 62-31 with 5:39 left to go.
The Lancers never quit as the team showed a little pride, ending the game off a 16-6 run. But even when three-pointers by Ernest Wallace (three points, six rebounds) and Alex Hunter fell, it was too little too late as the Rams picked up an impressive 23-point victory to garner victory number nine on the season.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com
By MICHAEL LETENDRE