By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern boys basketball team put on a bit of a clinic against Tolland on Friday, Jan. 2 from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol.
The topics of the evening: ball movement, fast break scoring, shooting off that pin-point passing, and a little defense chat mixed in.
And after class was dismissed, the Lancers ended things with a big 64-34 CCC Interdivisional victory.
Eastern (3-2) moved over .500 for the first time the season off the winning effort – posting its second straight victory of the year – while Tolland, undefeated coming into the contest, fell to 4-1 and lost for the first time.
The home team kept the ball moving, leaving the Eagles’ defense in flux, and punished the visitors with basket after basket and every critical junction.
In all, the Lancers ramped up 16 assists off 25 hoops.
In fact, Eastern’s Darieyn Tate had half of the Lancers’ assist total (8) and once again led the charge in the squad’s passing schemes.
“I always think the mark of a good team is how many assists you get on your baskets,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “The way that ball is snapping around, the way they’re finding each other…you can’t coach that. That’s just something that’s starting to come to them now.”
“They’re getting a great feel for each other.”
Daron McKoy spun in a season high 24 points to go along with three rebounds and two steals – not committing a turnover in 26 minutes of action – while George Taylor drained 15 points to go along with seven rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Kevin Love dropped 12 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out three assists and added two steals in another complete game effort while reserves Tommy Curtin added a hoop and Kahseym Fortune and Nate Hickey each played valuable floor minutes for the Lancers.
And when the Eastern offensive lesson was over, it was time for a refresher on the defensive end of things.
Tolland made only 13-of-42 field goals (31-percent), was out-rebounded by five and badly misfired at the free throw line (4-of-13). “We felt we could dominate them defensively,” said Giovinazzo. “We felt if we just got up on them and played them tough and didn’t give them any easy looks or easy passes that we’d be able to dominate them and turn that defense into offense which we did.”
Andrew Janorski led the way for the Eagles with eight points while no other player notched more that five for Tolland.
Again, that defensive lesson by Eastern was nearly stifling and when that defense went into overdrive in the third and fourth periods of play, the game was all but over.
Overall in the second half, Eastern outscored Tolland 28-13 and never looked back. “You’re always in the game if you play defense and offense just determines the margin you win by,” said Giovinazzo. “It definitely started with defense tonight.”
The 34 points were easily a season low by the Eagles and along those lines, Tolland never led in the game.
Eastern opened action off an 11-3 burst as a three by Taylor – off a sweet feed from Love – gave the Lancers the huge edge with 3:33 remaining in the first stanza of play.
Curtin and George banged in late hoops and after eight minutes of action, Eastern led 17-10.
McKoy got hot over the second frame – netting eight points in a 10-0 push to open the period – and by the time Tolland finally scored, on a three-point hoop from Janorski with 4:37 remaining before the half, the visitors trailed 27-13.
Off back-to-back threes, the Eagles trailed by just 11 but off an 8-0 Eastern blitzing, including a tremendous dunk by Love, the Lancers’ edge reached 34-16 with 2:36 left.
And by the halftime buzzer, Eastern led 36-21 and were in complete charge.
The third period was an offensive nightmare for Tolland, scoring just five points in the fray, as Eastern’s defense held the fort and the visitors trailed 44-26 with one period left.
And the deficit quickly got out of hand before things were said and done.
Leading by 17, George flipped in two threes, McKoy jammed in three as well and off two foul tosses by Love, the game was a 55-29 contest with 5:19 to go.
Overall, McKoy hit 6-of-
8 three-points and Taylor nailed 3-of-6 in the contest as there was no stopping the long-ball by the Lancers. “Your percentage will increase when the ball movement is good because it’s snapping around and you’re more open than when you’re forcing threes, by trying to shoot off the dribble or something like that,” said Giovinazzo. “But it’s the ball movement that creates the high percentage three.”
“You know, when Taylor and McKoy are open, obviously, they’re tough.”
Later on in the fourth, Tate found Love for yet another dunk; McKoy hit one last three-ball and then scooped up a steal for a hoop and with 2:36 to play, Eastern had the game in hand – leading by a 62-29 push as garbage time commenced and the reserves saw some precious floor time.
To end things for the Lancers, Jasiah Jenkins, Mike Rivera, and Tyler TeFoe (two points, two rebounds) ended the contest on a high note as Eastern won by 30.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE