By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Farmington boys basketball squad hardly played like a team with just four wins in a CCC Interdivisional tilt against Bristol Central on Saturday, Feb. 7.
Seemingly, the battles Central has engaged in against the Indians over the years have never been easy and this time around, things were no different.
However, the Rams took care of business in front of a package house and picked up a 59-52 CCC Interdivisional victory over Farmington from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium in Bristol.
With the win, Central moved to 11-4 overall on the campaign while Farmington’s 4-11 ledger could be the most deceiving record in the state. The Indians gave the Rams a challenge, hitting several shots from long range and keeping things close from the onset.
The game was a three-point shooter’s dream as the squads combined to launch 47 threes, canning 16 of those, and those threes certainly kept the visitors hanging around throughout the fray.
But Central put the clamps on the contest over the final three minutes of action, dictating tempo, dropping in high percentage hoops and keeping the Indians away from the basket.
It wasn’t pretty but it sure was effective as the Rams eventually turned Farmington away at the end.
“When you’re a good team, and we have 11 wins, we’re going to win some ugly ones. We won the ugly one today,” said Central coach Tim Barrette. “We out-rebounded them by 20 or 30 but we couldn’t convert inside. We missed a ton of bunnies tonight.”
That’s where the tall tandem of Landin Rutledge and Jamill Tolliver came into play.
The duo combined for 21 points and 24 rebounds as the twin tower approach easily went on and out-rebounded Farmington.
But even as the Rams scooped up several balls off the offensive glass, those put-back attempts didn’t find pay dirt, which kept the Indians from trailing big early.
“Our bigs were working hard,” said Barrette. “We had 16 offensive rebounds at halftime. We were working hard. We just couldn’t convert. We actually had some really good three-pointers that didn’t go in. It was just one of those days.”
“It was a difficult win where we had to grind it out…that’s what I’ll call it. It was a grind-out win but one of those wins we definitely needed.”
Central’s Jamil Hornesby dropped in 15 points – getting three threes to fall over the first quarter of play alone – while L.J. Johnson also hit three threes and ended the game with 11.
Rutledge (12 points), Tolliver (9), and Manny Severino (four points, five rebounds) all made offensive contributions while Shawn Caron, Hector Ortiz, and Aaron Collins all did something for Central in the winning effort.
But Farmington was in it to win it and nearly did, as the squad drilled several tough shots, dictated tempo and caused general havoc on the hardwood before the Rams eventually took over.
Farmington’s Trey Whitter smoked home a game-high 20 points, canning eight of nine free throws, while Bobby Raus banged in three threes on his way to 13 points.
Drew Labbadia hit for eight points while Connor Welsh, Andrew Landini, and Jack Tuohy all nailed three-pointers throughout the fray for the visiting outfit.
“Give them some credit, they shot the ball well tonight,” said Barrette of Farmington. “I don’t know how many threes they took. It was a lot.”
Farmington used the trifecta to near perfection to open the contest as makes by Labbadia and Raus made it a 12-4 game in the Indians’ favor with 4:05 remaining to play in the first period.
“Farmington made us play defense from 24 feet and that was difficult for us tonight,” said Barrette. “They shot the ball really well and we didn’t. The three-ball is a killer and it kept them in the game.”
But Central gave Farmington a dose of their own medicine as Hornesby and Johnson canned threes while Tolliver made a put-back to eventually give the home team a lead to end the first frame.
In fact, a 14-3 push by Central to end the first – highlighted by a three from Hornesby at the buzzer – gave the Rams an 18-15 lead eight minutes into things.
But quickly, Farmington went back on top, via a 7-0 push, and when Whitter slipped in a lay-up, the road team’s edge was 22-18 with 5:34 left in the first half.
Central then took the lead for good in the game as the squad put it all together, both offensively and defensively, over a span of just under two minutes.
A 9-0 run saw Tolliver can a free throw, Johnson then drilled back-to-back threes, while Rutledge found Tolliver for a lay-up and with 3:37 remaining before intermission, Central was back on top by a 27-22 tally.
A quick 9-2 zip from Farmington saw Whitter pack in four quick points and at the one minute mark of the second, Central’s cushion was chopped to one at 32-31.
But Tolliver sank home one additional lay-up. At the half, Central led 34-31 but Farmington was clearly still hanging around.
Once again, Central went on a bit of a hot streak and when Hornesby snuck in a quick little lay-up, the Rams led 42-34 with 4:16 left in the third.
However, Farmington produced a three from Landini and off two free throws, the Indians cut it to 42-39 with 2:03 left.
But Johnson flipped in a huge three to end the third and Central was back in charge at 45-39 with one period left.
But again, pesky Farmington refused to go away quietly.
Threes by Raus and Welsh trimmed the deficit to 47-45 with 5:53 to go but Central finally put a little distance between the squads.
The Rams notched the next six points, getting lay-ups from Tolliver, Hornesby, and Rutledge to make it 53-45. But again, Farmington answered with two free throws from Whitter and Raus drained another three.
But with 2:54 remaining, clinging to a 53-50 push, Barrette went to slow down tactics and limited the visitors to just two additional points the rest of the way.
From there, the home squad found Landin for two shots in the paint to stretch the Central lead to five at 57-52 with 1:19 left.
Farmington had only two team fouls and when the Rams played keep away over the final 90 seconds, it took several fouls by the Indians to finally put Central at the foul line as precious time ticked off the clock.
And when Rodriguez sank two free throws with 12.1 seconds remaining, Central led 59-52 and the game was all but over.
In the end, the Rams racked up a big 59-52 win to move to 11-4 on the campaign.
“We were able to finish it out in the end,” said Barrette. “One thing that helped us was they only had two team fouls with a 1:3- to go. So when we decided to pull the ball, take the air out, that was a major advantage for us at the end of the game.”