By MICHAEL LETENDRE
FARMINGTON – The Bristol Eastern girls basketball team faced a stern challenge on Wednesday, Feb. 3 when the squad traveled to Farmington for an intense CCC Interdivisional war with the Indians.
The battle saw two top 10 teams in the state do battle and even though Farmington led just about wire to wire, the Lancers were right in the thick of things until the very end.
But the Indians proved that top 10 ranking was no fluke – as did Eastern – as the Lancers fell 68-58 from Farmington High School.
When the Lancers (13-2) transition game was in full effect, Eastern was able to pile the points on the scoreboard against Farmington (15-0).
And even after a shaky start to the showdown, the Lancers settled down and nearly surged in front on multiple occasions.
“It was a good game,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “It gets you into that March Madness. But the kids did well. In the beginning, [Farmington] came out and their transition was very good. They got some kids out and got into transition and we weren’t ready for it and we didn’t adjust to it until the middle of the first quarter.”
“And then we settled down…and made them play a half-court game and we did a lot of good things we wanted to, especially on the boards, and we took some nice shots.”
Eastern’s Kaijia Brooks put on a show against undefeated Farmington and rocked the club for 29 points – including two three-pointers – to go along with nine rebounds, two assists, and three rejections.
No other players tallied double-figures in scoring for Eastern but offense came from other contributors.
Jamella Shoultz flipped in nine points, five rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and certainly pushed the ball in Eastern’s transition schemes while Gianna D’Amato added six points and three assists.
Diana Wnuk scored six points, nabbed three rebounds, and dished out two assists while Kianna Brooks had four points and five rebounds.
For Farmington, Hannah Friend – playing the top position in the squad’s suffocating 1-3-1 defensive zone – scored a game high 33 points and was everywhere in the squad’s fast-break attack while Sophie Borg added 12 big points.
But Eastern’s defense held the Indians to less than 43-percent shooting from the field overall while the Lancers enjoyed a big first half effort.
Eastern nailed 14-of-28 shots from the field and zipped up 10 assists in that effort that saw the visitors trail by just a 37-31 tally at intermission.
“I thought we worked the ball very well,” said Floyd. “We shot very well from the field in the first half.”
Two late baskets by Farmington over the final minute of the third turned a very good period by the Lancers into a 56-46 deficit as a three-pointer by Cheray Saunders made it a double-figure affair.
“In the second half, the third quarter was good,” said Floyd. “I thought at the end of the third quarter, we didn’t execute. We started rushing things and instead of executing and being patient like we were in the first, I think it would have been different. We gave them that nice, six, seven, and eight point lead.”
“That hurt us.”
Over the first three quarters, it seemed as when every time Eastern made it a one-possession affair and the squad got the ball, a hurried shot or turnover foiled a chance for the Lancers to get over the hump.
And for most of the second period – and portions of the third – the Lancers looked poised to either tie or take the lead with one big hoop that simply never materialized.
“Every time we got it to even, or two or three, then we would make those kind of mental mistakes,” said Floyd. “I think the big thing is we’re a little inexperienced [and] my kids are not playing these kinds of games all the time. And I think this was a good game for us to get experience for my kids to see where we’re at [and] some of the things we want to do farther on when the tournament starts.”
And then in the fourth period, Friend was assessed her fourth foul, with 6:20 left in the game with Farmington leading by a 58-51 push.
It was the perfect time for the Lancers to dent the deficit but to the Indians’ extreme credit, the home team stretched the lead out from seven to 10 (62-52) by the time Friend came back in.
“We should have taken advantage and we didn’t,” said Floyd of Farmington’s foul trouble. “That’s because we didn’t execute. We should have just taken our time. We had things that we wanted. I think Jamella and Daijia should have gotten [the ball]. She could hurt them inside…we weren’t patient enough to really execute and take advantage of that situation.”
A three by Daijia Brooks and a hoop from Wunk put Eastern in front by a 5-4 push with 6:31 left in the first period but once Friend hit her next hoop, the Lancers never led again.
A Friend lay-up ended the first period with Farmington on top at 22-12.
But Eastern ended the first – and going into the second frame – on an 8-2 run as a floater by D’Amato made it a 22-20 game with 5:59 remaining before intermission.
Daijia Brooks’ last hoop of the second, off a slick pass from Shoultz, notched the score at 29-29 with 3:21 remaining, but Farmington ended the stanza via an 8-2 run and by the break, the Indians were in front 37-31.
Farmington stretched their edge out to seven midway through the third tilt (47-40) but an offensive rebound and put-back, plus two charity tosses from Daijia Brooks, chopped it to a 51-46 deficit with 1:23 left.
But the Indians opened the last frame with a 56-46 lead in hand and never led by fewer than six points the rest of the way.
With Friend back into the game to end things, she connected on five straight points and off two free throws, Farmington established a 67-54 cushion with 1:13 left as the home team finally pushed out the lead.
In the end, Eastern fell by a 68-58 final.
“They’re a good team,” said Floyd of Farmington. “They did a nice job but they were some things that we could have done a little bit better that could have [turned the game in our favor]. When in that situation, we want to keep the game tight so it’s a little different.”
“It was basically a six-point game all game until the end when they got a couple big hoops down there and they made their foul shots.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE