By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – During the first encounter between the Bristol boys public school hoops squads, Eastern got the better of Central right off the bat to a tune of a 17-0 lead on Jan. 23.
Don’t expect the same in the rematch as the Rams will be looking to get a little revenge on their crosstown rivals.
Both squads have punched their state tournament tickets but there’s a ton on the line in the final city series showdown of the campaign.
Central is trying to improve its positioning for a higher home seed in the upcoming Class L state tournament tilt while Eastern is looking to move up the ranks of Class L and also wants to be a part of the 16-team CCC Tournament.
Again, both teams are playing for high stakes to end the regular season and here’s what to expect in what should be one heck of a rematch from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium:
Bristol Eastern at Bristol Central
Time and Location: Monday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m., Bristol Central High School (Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium)
Current Series: The Rams lead the all-time series .
Last Encounter: The Lancers defeated the Rams 70-57, starting the contest with a 17-0 edge that Central was never truly able to recover from.
Players to Watch:
Bristol Eastern – Daron McKoy (sr., guard); Austin Dias (sr., guard); Darieyn Tate (jr., guard); Kevin Love (sr., forward/center); George Taylor III (sr., guard); Tommy Curtin (sr., forward); Kahseym Fortune (sr., guard/forward), Nate Hickey (jr., guard); John Pastyrnak (sr., guard); Tyler Arbuckle (fr, guard); Bristol Central – Landon Rutledge (sr., center); Jason Severino (sr., guard); Eddie Rodriguez (sr., guard); Shawn Caron (sr., guard); Jamil Tolliver (sr., forward/center); Shawn Caron (sr., forward); Jerry LaPenta (sr., guard); Rich Lemke (sr., guard); Aaron Collins (so., forward); Jamil Hornesby (fr, guard); Hector Ortiz (sr., forward).
Bristol Eastern’s Record: At press time, the Lancers are 9-8. Eastern could be 11-8 entering the game at best, 9-10 at worst with losses at Platt of Meriden, and at Simsbury.
Bristol Central’s Record: The Rams could be as good as 14-5 if Central’s generates a home win against Maloney and a road victory at Southington. The squad could be, at worst, 12-7 entering the game against Eastern.
Why Bristol Eastern could win: It’s about playing smart and getting the job done on both sides of the ball.
The evidence the Lancers can accomplish that came in an amazing fourth quarter effort against Bulkeley – scooping up a season best 30 points in Eastern’s 65-62 victory over the Bulldogs.
By the time the game rolls around against Central, the Lancers should have the most three-pointers made in team history and when Eastern is taking good threes, the squad can pile up the points in a hurry.
Daron McKoy and George Taylor’s three-point marksmanship this season has been impressive this season and when Eastern is taking those “high percentage” three-point attempts, the offense is capable of everything that opens things up in the middle for Kevin Love and Darieyn Tate to operate inside.
Plus, the Lancers should have a more than a little confidence after the first go-around with the Rams but Eastern can’t be over-confident that will happen again.
A 17-0 start can’t ever happen again, right?
Why Bristol Central could win: When a squad falls behind 17-0 in a game and then cuts it to two at the half (29-27), that’s a big deal.
So, while Central fell to Eastern the first time around, the Rams should have a little confidence especially from it’s home facility, the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium.
If Central can stay out of foul trouble, Eastern could have difficulty dealing with the length of Landin Rutledge and Jamill Tolliver.
The problem was that hot start Eastern got off to, plus the early foul trouble that really hindered the Central offense.
But if Rutledge is hitting his normal quota of shots and Tolliver is underneath, scooping in rebounds for put-backs, it will go a long ways towards a victory.
And if Central can force some turnovers in any kind of full-court trap and allows the likes of L.J. Johnson to get out and run, look out.
Why Bristol Eastern could lose: If this is a close game, Eastern will be at a disadvantage.
The Lancers have lost six games – entering last week – that were decided by nine points or less.
And Eastern can’t just be consumed about one side of the floor.
For some reason, defense doesn’t seem as important and if Eastern can gather some steals and force turnovers, that will lead to easy hoops and buckets.
The Lancers must be in lock-down mode but if the energy isn’t there defensively, this could be a long evening.
Why Bristol Central could lose: The first time around, Central got down big but made a spirited run to close the deficit at the half.
However, three turnovers did-in the Rams to start the third period and that squashed any kind of comeback bid.
Both teams like to push the ball but pushing the ball can lead to some serious turnovers.
Tempo and control is extremely important to Central and if the Rams get into foul trouble, that flow will be hard to obtain.
If the Rams don’t stay in control, Central could be swept by the kids from King Street.
X-Factors: This time around for Central, Eddie Rodriguez could be the guy who makes a splash in this game.
If he can come off the bench firing, hitting a couple threes early in the fray, that scoring punch could be a big way to end the first quarter or begin the second.
Central will need a lift from the bench in this one.
For Eastern, Tate is an energy guy and his defensive intensity is a difference-maker as well.
But it will be his offense that could push Eastern over the top.
If the standout can post a double-figure scoring total and dish out his usual quota of assists, he will help boast the scoring exploits of McKoy, Love and Taylor.
And the winner is…Central wins the event by six, somewhere in the 66-60 range.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE