By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern and Northwest Catholic girls basketball teams opened the 2014-15 scholastic campaign with a barnburner from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol on Wednesday, Dec. 10.
And in the end, the team that showed had the most composure in the closing minutes was declared the victor.
The nod went to the Lancers as Eastern made all the big plays down the stretch to snatch up an impressive 55-49 in a CCC Interdivisional tilt.
The showdown included five lead changes and 11 ties but with Eastern trailing by two with 2:04 remaining, the home team closed out the contest by notching nine of the final 10 points tallied in the game.
“That was a good quality win,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “It was the first game of the season, both teams played hard. We came out in the first half and got into transition and sort of had them tired.” “In the second half, they came out at us, they played us tough.”
Daijia Brooks led all players with 26 points, 15 rebounds, and blocked two shots in her season debut.
Jamilla Shoultz added eight points and nine rebounds before fouling out while Diana Wnuk collected eight points, eight rebounds, and a team best three assists in the winning effort.
Kianna Brooks nabbed four points and six rebounds in her Eastern debut while Gianna D’Amato posted five points.
Reserves Miya Laprise and Jillian Lebeau netted four rebounds apiece and each added a hoop off the pine.
Haley Connors played well for the Indians and sank a team-high 17 points but no other player notched double figures in the scoring department.
The fourth quarter could have gone either way for Eastern but once Northwest’s MacKenzie Tibball (eight points) made a put-back with 2:04 left in the game, the Lancers did not allow the visitors another hoop the rest of the way. “We finally dug down a little deep, got some through some stuff thrown at us, made some adjustments, the guys settled down and we started to play our basketball,” said Floyd. “And we hit the boards again.”
Over that game-ending 9-1 burst, Eastern had numerous players get into the action in crunch time.
Shoultz slipped in a free throw to start the run and in transition, Daijia Brooks struck for a short jumper in the lane with 1:44 left – giving the Lancers a 49-48 lead the squad would never relinquish again.
Off a scramble, Wnuk found Shoultz for a huge insurance lay-up and with 48 seconds left, Wnuk lofted a pass to Daijia Brooks who calmly added another hoop to make it a 53-49 contest.
And in the middle of playing keep-away late, Wnuk zipped in a huge baseline jumper and with 16 seconds to go, the Lancers’ six point edge was the difference in the game. “We got some big shots by everybody at the end,” said Floyd. “I was very pleased by that. We had a big shot by Miya. Daijia had a big shot…it seemed like everybody hit some big shot (in the end).”
Eastern out-rebounded Northwest 51-36 in the showdown but the Indians kept it close by snaring 16 steals in the game.
However, with Northwest missing forty of the fifty-seven shots attempted from the field, the squad never built more than a four point lead during game play.
The Lancers built a 21-11 cushion with 4:10 left in the first half but lost that lead midway through the third stanza.
Northwest did a solid job finding the backdoor at points of the game and off a bank-shot by Connors, the team held an 8-4 lead with 3:29 left to go in the first period of play.
But with Eastern hitting 7-of-13 field goals in the tilt, Northwest’s lead quickly evaporated.
Over a stretch of nearly 7:30, the Indians’ offense went cold and via a 17-3 spurt – highlight by three D’Amato free throws – Eastern’s lead reached ten points at the 4:10 mark of the second quarter at 21-11.
But by the halftime break, Northwest managed to slice the deficit in half as a 8-3 run to end the second period by the Indians made it a 24-19 game at intermission.
Then, it was Eastern’s turn to go frigid from the field – seeing Northwest nab a 26-24 lead with 4:14 remaining in the third period – but off a put-back from Daijia Brooks, the game was a 26-26 stalemate.
And that was how the remainder of the period went with the squads trading hoops and both teams not really holding any advantage.
Laprise drilled a baseline jumper late and Daijia Brooks added a basket but by the final horn of the third frame, Northwest held a slim 37-35 edge.
And even as the Indians tried to increase their lead, Eastern answered with critical hoops and stops over the final period of play.
Down only three with 4:12 remaining, Shoultz canned a foul shot, and the combination of Brooks and Brooks hit back-to-back hoops and with 3:03 to go, Eastern regained the lead at 46-45.
But Northwest responded with a free throw from Gigi Gianone and off the hoop by Tibball, the visitors went ahead by a 48-46 push.
From there, Eastern would not be denied and eventually sank the Indians by a 55-49 final.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE