By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Over the years, the Bristol Central girls basketball hasn’t been known as a pressing, trapping, defensive juggernaut.
But if the Rams continue to defensively smother their opponents early and often in games, Central is going to be a tough team to top.
Just ask the squad from Maloney on Friday, Dec. 12 as the Rams squashed the Spartans 50-31 in a CCC South tilt from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium in Bristol.
And it was a quick death as Central (1-1) won for the first time this year and forced the Spartans into three quick timeouts in a matter of 3:07 and once the visitors fell into a deep hole, they never completely were about to crawl out.
By the time Maloney finally got things going, the home team was ahead by a 17-4 push with 1:55 to go in the first, setting the pace of the game.
“Tonight, we came out with guns-a-blazing,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet. “We had good pressure and good intensity.”
That pressure forced nine first period turnovers and with Maloney out of sorts offensively, Central attacked the hoop with zest.
The Rams hit seven of 14 shots over the first eight minutes of play, drilling numerous lay-ups off the gaffes, and turnovers by the Spartans.
It was a defensive onslaught by Central with the squad making good, quality shots throughout the fray.
“We just can’t settle for jump-shots,” said Gaudet. “Against Simsbury (last Wednesday), we settled for some jump shots. Tonight, we didn’t. We attacked. Erika (Monsalve) did a great job. Ashley (Elder) did a good job of attacking the rim. Meghan (Hamel) did too…even (Allie) Martel. We did a good job of not settling for the first open shot.”
Monsalve led the charge with a season high 20 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals.
Teammate Ashley Elder added 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists, while Martel zipped in seven points and four rebounds while snatching three steals.
Esharra Walton gobbled up seven rebounds. Hamel – manning the point guard position – scored six points, captured three rebounds, and dished out three assists. Brianna Hamel added a hoop in the winning effort.
Michaela Bossi also grabbed a rebound and gave good support off the bench for the Central starters.
“We got some contribution off the bench from Brianna Hamel and Michaela Bossi,” said Gaudet.
Overall, the Rams shot over 40-percent from the field and nabbed 13 total steals on the evening.
Maloney made runs in the game to cut the deficit to single digits but off a little added defensive zest, Central turned the tables on the Spartans with scoring bursts of their own each and every time.
“It started defensively,” said Gaudet of stopping Maloney’s runs. “They got it down to four but then we got a couple stops in a row and we played good man defense tonight. We spent a lot of time in practice yesterday working on just helping, seeing the ball, and playing team defense. Tonight helped and it showed.”
Monsalve, Esher, and Meghan Hamel scored all the points of Central’s 17-4 game-opening run but trailing by 13 with 1:55 left in the second, Maloney made a push of their own.
Off a 10-0 jaunt by the Spartans – highlighted by a three-pointer from Mitchell – Maloney was in it, trailing by just a 17-14 tally with 4:45 remaining in the first half.
But Central ended the stanza with a 9-4 burst as Monsalve hit three straight three free throws to end the half with the Rams leading by a 26-18 score and in very good shape at the half.
An Elder hoop followed by two charity tosses from Meghan Hamel propelled Central’s edge to 30-18 with 6:48 left in the third.
But Maloney was back at it again.
The Spartans notched eight straight points, making it a four-point deficit at 30-26 before the defense returned for Central and the momentum shifted once again.
The Rams ended the quarter with a flourish as Walton hit a hoop, Elder spun in a shot, Martel lofted up a three-point bomb and Brianna Hamel ended the festivities with a basket and by the third period buzzer, Central went ahead by a 41-28 edge with eight minutes to play.
Over the first four minutes of the fourth frame, Central stretched their lead out to 17 and once Monsalve connected on a conventional three-point play, the Rams were in front 48-31 with 4:37 remaining.
Over the final 5:49, Maloney did not score a single point, Central went into stall mode – which the Spartans complied with – as the visiting team eventually fell by a 50-31 final.
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS